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Griselda: The godmother of the underworld

Building an empire on the blood of her family and foes, Griselda became the most feared woman in the world

By Phillip Koch
With chubby cheeks and thinning grey hair pulled severely back, Griselda Blanco Restrepo could have passed for someone's gran, but this "Cocaine Godmother" was more the stuff of nightmares than fairytales.
Her reign of terror over 20 years in Colombia, New York and Miami left an estimated 200 people dead, including her three husbands and the many men who helped her build a $3 billion drug empire.
At one point, she was making more than $100 million a month smuggling and selling cocaine, and she was even rumoured to strike fear into the hearts of some of the most evil men in the world, including notorious Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, who killed an estimated 4000 people.
"The only man I was ever afraid of was a woman named Griselda Blanco," Pablo once admitted.
Her drug empire was estimated to be worth $3 billion.

Power & precision

Griselda was born into poverty in Colombia in 1943, proving at a tender age that she was willing to do anything to escape her lot by kidnapping and attempting to ransom a child from a wealthy family. When they refused to pay, 11-year-old Griselda shot the boy dead.
Ten years later, she had illegally immigrated to New York with her second husband Alberto Bravo – after divorcing her first husband Carlos Trujillo, who she later executed over a business disagreement – and her three sons, Osvaldo, Uber and Dixon, from her first marriage.
She and Alberto sold marijuana, but soon turned to an even bigger illegal money spinner, importing and selling cocaine. They used the proceeds from their marijuana business to set up a lingerie company, but it wasn't bras and undies that made them rich.
Griselda killed 200 people, including her three husbands.
Griselda used the lingerie company as a front to import kilos of cocaine, cunningly hidden in secret pouches in the bras she designed.
When she was indicted on federal drug charges in 1975, she and Alberto fled back to Colombia.
Just a few years later, she was back in the US, minus husband number two, whom she shot in the head after accusing him of fleecing millions from their drug operation. Her third marriage, to Dario Sepulveda, would also prove to be a fatal union.
By this time, Griselda had built her cocaine empire into one of the biggest criminal organisations in the world, ruthlessly killing anyone who stood in her way.
She commanded the murders of 200 people, both rivals and some members of her own organisation. The ease with which she ordered executions saw her become one of the most feared women in the world.
She kept order with a gold-plated submachine gun studded with emeralds.

Family consequences

Dario would not escape her evil clutches either. He became the third and final husband she had killed when he left her in 1983, taking their son, Michael Corleone Blanco, who was named after Al Pacino's character in the three Godfather movies, back to Colombia.
Griselda paid to have him executed and then brought Michael back to the US, where he has the sad distinction of being the only one of her four sons to still be alive.
Michael's reunion with his mother was to be short-lived, though, with Griselda arrested in 1985, and charged with conspiring to manufacture, import and distribute cocaine. She was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years in prison, and later pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree murder.
Michael is the drug queen's last surviving son.

Hollywood lawsuit

Michael was recently back in the spotlight after attempting to sue Netflix over the new TV series based on his mother's life and crimes.
The family also launched a lawsuit against its lead star, Sofía Vergara, with both parties facing allegations over the unauthorised use of the family's image and likeness.
After production refused the family's offer to consult on the project, Michael slammed Sofía as "disrespectful" and "offensive".
"All I have to say is that if my mother was alive, she wouldn't have got away with it," the marijuana salesman added.
"It's such a slap in the face knowing that we come from the same land, that we come from the same culture."
Modern Family star Sofía plays the titular role.
In response to the lawsuit, Griselda creator Eric Newman declared, "It's not my first rodeo. The Escobar family made similar claims for the TV series Narcos.
"We had a very specific story we wanted to tell. I believe we told it and I don't think it in any way prevents someone else from telling their own version of it."
Griselda – who was also known as the "Black Widow" for killing her husbands –was released on compassionate grounds in 2004, after suffering a heart attack in prison, and deported back to Colombia.
She lived for another eight years, before she was shot and killed, at the age of 69, by an assassin on a motorcycle, outside a butcher's shop in Medellín.

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