Reports of armed men seeking a buried chest belonging to Pablo Escobar in Medellin, Colombia have sparked speculation of a criminal treasure hunt linked to the early release from prison of Escobar's former chief assassin "Popeye."
Local news reports say that on August 27, two armed men dressed in the uniforms of a local public services company knocked on the door of the house next to Escobar's last residence -- where the notorious drug lord was discovered and gunned down while trying to escape in December 1993.
According to the woman who answered the door, the men told her "Don't do anything, don't say anything, don't scream. We have come for something that 'El Patron' left here," reported Semana.
The men then proceeded to dig up the floor using tools they had brought with them, but left empty handed after half an hour, when they apparently became concerned about attracting the attention of the neighbors, changed clothes and left, reported El Tiempo.
The incident took place just a day after the release from jail of Escobar's chief hitman Jhon Jairo Velasquez Vasquez, alias "Popeye." On the day of his release, Semana published details of a previous interview in which Popeye said one of his greatest secrets was the location of a buried arsenal of weapons belonging to Escobar, which many people had searched for but no one had found, leading to speculation that Popeye's release and the criminal treasure hunt are linked.
In an interview with Blu Radio, Medellin's Deputy Mayor of Governance, Luis Fernando Suarez, said the authorities were investigating a possible connection.
"It is possible that it was something like that," he said referring to the treasure hunt. "This person, who is now free, will certainly have knowledge of this situation and others where money has been stashed."
InSight Crime Analysis
The sudden demise of the drug lords created by Colombia's 1980s cocaine boom has long captured the imagination of treasure hunters and attention of scavengers.
Properties written into narco-folklore, such as Escobar's fantasyland estate, Napoles, or his self-built five-star luxury prison, La Catedral, were rapidly stripped, dug up, and smashed in search of hidden wealth.
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In properties belonging to Escobar's Medellin Cartel partner Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha, alias "El Mexicano," authorities discovered buried chests containing cash and gold worth millions of dollars, sparking a mass treasure hunt scramble.
The fact this latest attempt to unearth Escobar's lost wealth has come so closely on the heels of Popeye's release certainly raises suspicions. With no shortage of enemies after revenge in Colombia and foreign governments rejecting the possibility of taking him in, Popeye seems a marked man. If he does know the location of hidden treasure, digging it up and disappearing with it may be an appealing option for his future.