Latin America & Caribbean

Drug lord Pablo Escobar's Florida mansion razed

Christian de Berdouare stands with his dog by a pool of a house that used to belong to notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar on January 13, 2016, in Miami Beach, FL. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Christian de Berdouare bought the mansion unaware of its history

Demolition work has started on a Florida mansion once owned by Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar.

Its new owners have hired professional treasure hunters to comb through the rubble in the hope of finding items belonging to the former leader of the Medellin cartel.

The pink mansion in Miami beach was seized by the US government in 1987.

Escobar, who was one of the world's richest men at the time of his death, was killed by Colombian police in 1993.

Search for treasure

Christian de Berdouare and his wife Jennifer Valoppi said they were unaware of its history when they bought the four-bedroom mansion from a private owner in 2014.

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Media captionDrug baron's mansion demolished

Escobar bought the mansion in 1980 and had it for seven years before it was seized by the US authorities.

The new owners said Escobar never lived there but had visited the property on occasion.

Pablo Escobar

Image caption Pablo Escobar is considered one of the most powerful drug lords of all times
  • Born in 1949 in Antioquia, Colombia, he became the leader of the powerful Medellin drugs cartel
  • During the cartel's heyday he was thought to be among the world's 10 richest people
  • Many of his properties had hidden stashes of cash and jewellery
  • His Medellin drugs cartel was accused of being behind up to 80% of all the cocaine shipped to the US
  • Killed on a Medellin roof-top during a shoot-out as he was trying to flee from the police on 2 December 1993

They have hired a team to search for stashes of drugs, money or jewellery, which they suspect may have been hidden inside the mansion or its garden, as was the custom of members of the Medellin cartel.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Workers have been searching the walls for secret hiding places

Ms Valoppi said the workers had found a buried safe but that it was stolen before they could open it.

"It was in the ground under some marble and was discovered by some of our workers, but before we even had a chance to remove it, it was stolen, so we've been working with police on that," she said.

Mr de Berdouare, who paid just under $10m (£7m) for the mansion, said he was "very excited to see the house of the devil disappearing right before our eyes".

"This was the biggest criminal in the history of the world. I would like to be associated with something more uplifting, but nevertheless it's part of the city," he added.

He said that he believed Escobar bought the mansion in a residential neighbourhood in order "to conduct illicit trade". He plans to build a new mansion on the site.

Miami was a key entry point for drugs flooding in from South America in the 1980s and many drug lords had mansions and luxury apartments in the city.

The Miami mansion was built in 1948 and has direct access to Biscayne Bay and views of the Miami skyline.

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