October 21, 2006
Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela
The sentencing of Gilberto and Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela brought down the world's most successful drug cartel, but did little if anything to halt the flow of drugs to the United States.
U.S. justice was finally served on Sept. 26, 2006 in a Miami court when the godfathers of the Cali Cartel, Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela, and his brother Miguel, pled guilty to drug trafficking and money laundering charges. The plea, which came after months of intense negotiations with several U.S. agencies, marked the end of the largest running and most important investigation in U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency history.
The 67-year-old Gilberto, known as the "Chess Player' for his brilliance, and the 62-year-old Miguel, "El Senor" for his no-nonsense style of criminal management, were the co-founders of Colombia's Cali Cartel, history's biggest and most powerful drug-trafficking organization and arguably its most significant organized crime syndicate. In the 1980s and early 1990s, the brothers made billions of dollars building the cartel into the world's top supplier of cocaine. Along the way, they destroyed thousands of lives in the United States and other countries around the world distributing their poison. In the process, the brothers revolutionized the way criminals did business, and in 1994, nearly turned Colombia into a narco-democracy by almost buying the presidency with an illegal $6.2 million donation to the campaign of presidential candidate Ernesto Samper, who was eventually elected.
It is no overstatement to say that Cali Cartel succeeded in the drug trade and organized crime like no other criminal group before or since. In the early 1990s, the cartel supplied more than 80 percent of the cocaine smuggled in the United States, and was raking in between $5 and $7 billion annually, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.