Carlos Lehder, revolutionized drug smuggling with partner George Jung. The 2001 movie "Blow" was based on their exploits, with Jung being played by Johnny Depp.
Lehder was a founding member of the Medellin Cartel and took responsiblity for transporting cocaine from Colombia into the US. Upto this point drugs had been smuggled in small amounts unsually in passengers luggage on commercial flights. Lehder's plan was to go big, and smuggle large quantities of drugs directly into the US in a fleet of aircraft.
Lehder secretly schemed to secure a personal Bahamian island as an all-purpose headquarters for his operations. The island chosen was Norman's Cay, which at that time consisted of a marina, a yacht club, approximately 100 private homes, and an air strip.
In 1978, Lehder began buying up property and harassing the island's residents. Before long he had assumed total control of the island. The runway was extended to 3,300-feet and radar installed to protect his fleet of aircraft. Armed bodyguards with attack dogs patrolled the beaches and senior government officials paid-off to look the other way.
From 1978 to 1982, Norman's Cay was the Caribbean's main drug smuggling hub, Cocaine was flown in from Colombia then reloaded onto smaller aircraft for low level, radar evading flights into the US. At one point it was estimated that 85% of all cocaine sold in the US arrived via Norman's Cay.
In the glory days of his operation, Norman's Cay became a tropical hideaway for sex, drugs and debauchery for Lehder and his associates. By the age of 30, he had amassed a personal fortune of just under $3 billion.
Lehder was finally arrested and extradited to the US, and sentenced to life with no parole, plus 135 years. This was later reduced to 55 years following his agreement to testify against Manuel Noriega.
Today, many of the buildings, while deratict, still remain. Lehder's mansion, the pilot hotel and in the shallow water the wreck of a Curtiss C46. The fully loaded aircraft crashed in 1980 after an engine failure on take-off. She now sits easily accessible for snorkeling. See video below.
It's a fascinating story and Steve can take you there. The Exumas are a paradise of 365 small cays and islands surrounded by beautiful clear turquiose water.