Norman's Cay is a small island in the Bahamas--210 miles off the Florida coast. For four years it was a drug smuggling hub and tropical hideaway for Medellin cartel kingpin Carlos Lehder and associates. Lehder arrived there in 1978 and started buying up large pieces of property, including a home for himself, a hotel and an airstrip. With his arrival, the locals noticed a marked increase in airplane traffic on the island's tiny airstrip, as well as armed guards patrolling the beaches.
Lehder's scheme was to revolutionize the cocaine trade by transporting the drug to the U.S. using small aircraft. Previously drug dealers had to rely on human "mules" to smuggle the drugs in suitcases on regular commerical flights. Under Lehder's scheme, much greater quantities could be transported with far less risk of interception. Norman's Cay became the stop-over and refueling hub for these planes, carrying cocaine for Lehder and other members of the Medellin cartel from Colombia to the U.S. Lehder built a 3,300-foot runway protected by radar, bodyguards and Doberman attack dogs for the fleet of aircraft under his command.
The party came to an end in 1982 when the Bahamian government, in response to
pressure from U.S. law enforcement, finally began to crack down on the
activities on Norman's Cay.
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