A report claiming that a Colombian farmer found a whopping $600 million belonging to the country’s former number one drug lord Pablo Escobar has been circulating on the internet.
Rumour has is it, that Escobar – one of the world’s most notorious and richest narcotics traffickers who came to control 80 percent of the world’s cocaine – stashed his cash in barrels all over Colombia. The kingpin was dramatically shot dead by narco police in 1993.
The report, which has been doing the rounds for the last few weeks, would have readers believe that the fortuitous farmer, Jose Mariena Cartolos, has stumbled across one of Esobar’s money barrels.
Republished on various websites since at least November 5, including the Honduran La Prensa, PubliMetro and the U.S. based Don Diva Magazine, the article has been accompanied by two photos. One of which is supposedly Cartolos, and the other is a picture of a blue barrel stacked with wads of dollars wrapped in plastic.
According to the story, the farmer happened upon the fortune by chance. After being awarded a $3,000 grant to develop his family’s land into a palm oil plantation, the 65-year-old discovered the barrel while digging a trench.
It turns out that Cartolos, unable to keep the money, is not so lucky after all. Apparently, the Colombian government seized the cash and will be using it for social and economic programs.
The fact that he was not allowed to keep his find has caused distain among some readers. After the story was published on the Honduran La Prensa website, commentators voiced their annoyance at the Colombian government.
“Yes, I cannot believe that farmer who found the treasure would give it over, well because he found it so he should keep it. The government are thieves and they will not do any good with it, they took the money. They are also so petty, only giving the farmer a miserable $3,000 like it’s a great fortune, this is going to do nothing for the poor man,” wrote one La Prensa reader, Luzangela.
The commentators’ anger, however, is probably in vain. The story has be called out as a fake.
“OK, OK, OK. There’s an excellent chance the story about Pablo Escobar’s money isn’t real. It was fun though, right?” tweeted Don Diva’s Ryan K. Smith.
— Don Diva Magazine (@dondivamagazine) November 5, 2015
Indeed, the picture of Cartolos looks suspiciously like a stock photo, and the origin of the story are as mysterious as the whereabouts of Esobar’s cash.
There is also the small issue of the bills themselves. The Daily Haze claims that on closer inspection the dollar bills in the barrel can’t possibly be Escobar’s. This is because the money in the photo was apparently not released until 2006.
This latest yarn follows a long line of tales about Esobar and his ill-gotten gains. InSight Crime has reported some of the most captivating stories from the memoir of Esobar’s son, Juan Pablo Escobar, ‘Pablo Escobar My Father’. These anecdotes include Esobar stuffing piñatas with wads of cash for his kid’s birthday parties. Another involves the drug trafficker employing the unusual technique of soaking jeans in liquid cocaine and smuggling them into the U.S.