The Accountant’s Story: Inside the Violent World of the Medellin Cartel

Once you get past the fact that Roberto Escobar sees his brother more as a Columbian Robin Hood rather than one of the most barbaric, nefarious drug lords… well, ever, The Accountant’s Story is actually a pretty fascinating read that’s incredibly difficult to put down once you’ve started reading.

Roberto, a former professional cyclist and small business owner, was recruited by his brother Pablo to handle the finances once his cocaine business exploded in the 80’s. There is little set up or explanation as to why Pablo first got into the drug business. The brothers were poor growing up (as were millions of others who didn’t end up shipping drugs across the globe) and Pablo swore early on he would be president some day (he did serve briefly in politics, but his reputation as a burgeoning drug lord ended his political career quickly).

What Roberto does detail well is the enormity of success the Escobars had as drug dealers. The amount of money that was being made when the operation was at its peak is too large for Roberto to even account for. Thanks to millions spent on bribes to everyone from custom officials and generals to air traffic controllers, the brothers were shipping 15 tons of cocaine a day out of their native Columbia, most of it coming to the United States. They spent $1,000 a week just on rubber bands to bind the money.

Though he does admit that his brother resorted to violence every now and then, Roberto takes an almost caviler attitude to the regular killings and tortures that his brother ordered treating it simply as another byproduct to doing business and claiming not to really know about much of it. He also puts a lot of the blame on Americans who were consuming the drugs his brother was sending over. Roberto tries desperately throughout The Accountant’s Story to portray his brother as a generous philanthropist, greatly loved by the peasants.

The memoir gives a fascinating look into the magnitude of corruption that existed in Columbia during Pablo’s rain as a cocaine king pin. At one point, Pablo negotiated for him, his brother and a few crew members to serve their jail time in a prison they built themselves (complete with all the modern conveniences of home), stocked with guns and guarded by jailers handpicked by Pablo. Women, of course, were allowed to come and go, staying over for weekends at times.

Extreme bias in how the story is told aside, the book is an addictive read.

The Accountant’s Story: Inside the Violent World of the Medellin Cartel / 2009 Grand Central Publishing / 304 Pages / http://www.hachettebookgroup.com

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