by Juan Pablo Escobar
Juan Pablo Escobar writes, after his father’s death, his aunt Alba Marina Escobar stole the hidden money Pablo Escobar had left in his secret stashes. Juan Pablo wrote that his uncle Roberto also betrayed the family and made a deal with the DEA, which consisted of writing a book in which he falsely claimed that his brother had donated $1 million to former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori’s campaign and sustained a close relationship with his chief intelligence officer Vladimiro Montesinos.
Alba Marina Escobar: Where Did the Money Go?
After my father’s funeral, we realized that the peace we’d been seeking after my father’s death was fleeting and that very soon we’d be plunged into the hectic daily existence that awaited us. In addition to our deep sorrow at what had happened to my father, being surrounded by secret agents and dozens of journalists lying in wait indicated that our confinement in that hotel in downtown Bogotá was going to be tumultuous.
At the same time, our lack of money started to cause problems for us almost immediately. My father was dead, and we had no one to turn to for help.
We’d been staying in that upscale hotel in Bogotá since November 29, and to reduce the risks around us we’d rented the entire twenty-ninth floor even though we occupied only five rooms. Our financial predicament became more dire in mid-December, when the hotel sent us the first bill for lodging and food, which, to our surprise, also included the tab for the government’s security team. It was an astronomical sum thanks to the large quantities of food and drink they’d ordered. They consumed shrimp, lobster, shell- fish stew, and pricey cuts of meat, as well as all sorts of hard alcohol, especially whiskey, seeming to have deliberately chosen the most expensive items on the menu.
Alba Marina and Luz Maria’s Arrival
One day, my aunts Alba Marina and Luz María came to the hotel. We sat down at the dining table, and after describing what we’d been through in the last few weeks, my mother mentioned her concern over how little money we had. We discussed the matter for a long time, and the compassion and generosity that Alba Marina exhibited made me think that she was the right person to help. I needed her to retrieve an unknown amount of cash that my father had hidden in two stashes at the property we called “the blue house.” It was time to go get it so we could have a bit of financial breathing room.
As I moved to a seat next to her, I remembered that the apartment we were staying in was still being monitored by the authorities, who had not only bugged our phones but probably also installed microphones throughout the place. I had searched for them many times, dismantling lamps, telephones, furniture, and all sorts of other objects. I had even poked around for them in the electrical outlets, but in doing so I’d caused a short circuit that had knocked out the electricity to the whole floor.
I decided to whisper my secret in her ear. First I put on the television and turned the volume way up. Then I told her.
My Aunt’s Reputation
One night during our period of suffocating confinement in the blue house, my father decided to take stock of his finances. When everybody was sleeping, he took me to two different hiding places he’d had built in the house. He showed me the boxes where cash was hidden and said that, apart from him and now me, the only other person who knew about them was his man “Fatty.” Then he added that my mother and sister and, most of all, his siblings must never learn that secret. According to my father, the two caches had enough money to win the war and get us back on our feet. There- fore, we had to manage it carefully. He also told me that a while back he’d sent six million dollars to his brother Roberto: three for Roberto’s expenses while in prison and the other three for him to keep for us in case we needed it. If something happened to my father, Roberto had specific instructions to give us the money.
Once my account was over, I got right to the point:
“Auntie, would you be willing to go to Medellín to get the money that’s stashed in those two hiding places? We don’t have anyone else we can ask, and there’s no way we can go.”
Alba Marina had a reputation for being tough, and she immediately agreed. So I revealed the exact locations of the hiding places in the blue house—one in the living room near the fireplace and another in the clothes-drying courtyard behind a thick wall—and told her not to say anything to anybody; to go there alone, at night, preferably using someone else’s car; to take a very indirect route to the house; and to keep an eye on her rear-view mirrors to make sure she wasn’t being followed. Finally, I wrote a letter to Fatty authorizing my aunt to remove the boxes of money.
After I’d given the instructions, I asked her if she was scared. “I won’t be intimidated. I’ll go after that money wherever it is,”she said firmly.
Alba Marina returned three days later, and when she walked into the hotel room, she wasn’t looking so positive. My first thought was that something had gone wrong. I asked for the keys to one of the empty rooms on the floor and met with her alone.
“Juan Pablo, there was only a little bit of money at the blue house, that’s it,” she said all in a rush.
I was silent for a few minutes, disconcerted. I didn’t doubt her story and directed my rage against Fatty, the guard, who’d probably stolen the caches.
A flood of questions remained after the money’s disappearance, but we had to keep quiet because we didn’t have a way to contest Alba Marina version of events. I’d never dared to doubt her, since on several occasions I’d noticed that she was loyal to my father.
Son of the infamous leader of the Medellín cartel, Pablo Escobar, Juan Pablo Escobar is an architect, lecturer, drug policy reform advocate, and writer. He was a subject of the award-winning documentary Sins of My Father and lives in Argentina. He is the author of PABLO ESCOBAR: MY FATHER.