Carlos Lehder, one of the founders of the drug trafficker Medellín Cartel: living in Germany, away from the underworld

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He has only broken his silence to disavow one of his daughters as his supposed spokesperson since his release in the US in June. His lawyer, Óscar Arroyave, insists from Miami that his client has already paid the bill with justice.

Until very recently, if someone had been told that Carlos Lehder, one of the last two founders of the drug trafficker Medellín Cartel still alive –the other is Jorge Luis Ochoa–, he would currently be free in Germany and without any precautionary measure, the receiver would think that he was listening to a fantasy. It’s not like that. Lehder, a visionary in the cocaine trade by introducing airplanes into the illicit business, is a completely free man removed from the madding crowd of his own choosing in an undisclosed German enclave.

“He has already canceled the bill,” says Óscar Arroyave, referring to serving the sentence. Arroyave, the former drug trafficker’s lawyer, makes this statement in a telephone conversation with this newspaper from Miami. “Mr. Lehder wants to live in peace, in the company of his family and eager to meet his new grandchildren ”, explains the lawyer.

Carlos Lehder has only broken his silence once since he inaugurated his new retired life in Germany and he did so through a Colombian medium and consisted of a brief interview written via WhatsApp. In it, for reasons not very clear, he wanted to disavow one of his daughters, Mónica, a resident of Colombia, who had been appearing in the media as a supposed spokesperson for her father.

The veteran former drug trafficker denied that he was in poor health and added that he had never authorized his daughter to give any interview in the media on his behalf and that he had even explicitly prohibited it. “But she doesn’t want to obey,” Lehder told Colombian radio station Los Juanes Radio.

Lehder, co-founder of the Medellín Cartel along with Pablo Escobar and other relevant traffickers, He served 33 years in prison in the United States. He was the first and almost the only major Colombian trafficker extradited to the country of the stars and stripes in the 1980s. His arrest, most likely, responded to a betrayal by Escobar.

The arrival of Carlos Lehder to Germany has a remote explanation and it is the fact that He is the son of a German citizen and a Colombian mother and retains dual nationality. In addition, everything seems to indicate that this former trafficker, born in Armenia, Quindío department (Colombia) has one or two brothers residing in Germanic lands.

“When he was released, he could choose to go to one of the two countries of which he has nationality, or Colombia or Germany, and he preferred Germany,” explains the lawyer Arroyave to The vanguard, regarding the offer made by the US administration upon serving the sentence. The lawyer clarifies that Lehder preferred to travel to Europe than to return to Colombia for a question of quality of life, although in his native country he did not have charges against him at that time.

That absence of criminal charges, in June and that allowed Lehder to travel to Germany –If it had had them, it would have been handed over to the Colombian authorities– was a finding that raised blisters in certain areas of the coffee-growing country. There were politicians and social leaders who wondered how someone who had belonged to one of the criminal organizations that had caused the most damage and pain to Colombians was not accountable before the courts of their country.

At the time of traveling to Europe he did not have them and that is why he was able to do so. However, the prosecutor’s office of the Republic of Colombia could now be studying the filing of accusations against him after petitions such as those of the family of former Minister of Justice Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, murdered by hitmen from the Medellín cartel in 1984.

Lehder always thought that the US administration had cheated him a sentence reduction that according to him his then lawyers had agreed with the prosecution if, as he did, became the main witness in the trial against the former strongman of Panama, Manuel Antonio Noriega. The hearing was held in Florida in 1992 and at the end of all the sessions, the Central American military man was sentenced to four decades in jail.

A good part of Lehder’s fight over the years has consisted of obtaining the reduction of sentence supposedly kicked with the Florida prosecution and that, according to him, was never recognized.

The transfer to Germany was then attempted to continue serving his sentence there thanks to the international treaty exchange of prisoners, currently signed, among others, by the countries involved in this case. In this transfer request process, the Spanish lawyer José García Bergillos came to participate between 2015 and 2017.

However, and as Arroyave recalls, the United States Department of Prison Affairs did not agree to that route but instead ended up recognizing sentence reductions that, according to the lawyer, should have been applied to his client’s file long before. “He was an outlier, they didn’t apply them. They made an exception. Finally, the Bureau of Prisons accepted this claim and released him ”, explains the lawyer.

Lehder’s lawyer, a well-known legal expert in international extradition and drug trafficking cases account in your client portfolio with names of the high criminal profile such as Salvatore Mancuso Gomez, Diego Fernando Murillo Bejarano Don Berna, Miguel Ángel Mejía Munera (one of Los Mellizos) or Edgar Vallejo, alias Beto.

There is a paradox, Arroyave explains, that “Noriega was able to take advantage of the legal changes” in terms of prison benefits that Lehder did not obtain until after spending three decades in prison, despite being the main witness in the case. against the Panamanian trafficker president.

The lawyer of the former founder of the bloody Medellín cartel insists on defining his client’s status as someone who “is trying to enjoy his family and his life.” Arroyave, always helped by B., his diligent paralegal assistant at the firm, and María del Mar, one of the recently released’s daughters who does have the favor of the veteran ex-convict –Lehder is 71 years old– They are the people who maintain fluid contact from the United States with this former member of Colombian organized crime.

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