Review: The Accountant’s Story
After their family lost their farm, Pablo and Roberto Escobar grew up poor in Medellin, Colombia. Pablo always vowed that he would be a millionaire by the time he was 22 and that he would take care of his mother and buy her anything she wanted. He started making his money by selling contraband items and when got caught at that, he moved on to drugs.
In the meantime, Roberto earned two college degrees – one in Electrical Engineering and one in Accounting – and was successful as a bicycle racer. He coached the national team and manufactured and sold bicycles.
Pablo’s drug business turned to cocaine and he decided to introduce it to the U. S. market. It quickly became the drug of choice for the elite and wealthy and Pablo couldn’t smuggle in enough of it. He began making an enormous profit because he was involved in every step of the process from the manufacture to the sale of the drugs. (At one time Forbes magazine named Pablo the 7th richest man in the world and estimated his wealth at 25 billion dollars.) Pablo called on his brother, Roberto, to help him launder the money. Roberto said there was so much money coming in, it was a challenge to find places to store it. At one time, they were spending 2500 dollars a month on rubber bands to wrap the cash in. They were enjoying the money they were making – living in luxury and traveling.
Pablo was able to convince most people that he made his fortune in real estate until he decided to run for political office. He was behind the assassination of a Presidential candidate and several members of the Colombian Supreme Court. His crimes were becoming too big to go unnoticed. Pablo was now on the radar of the police and Army. With pressure from the U. S. government, Columbia started investigating the Medellin cartel’s business.
Pablo and Roberto were allowed to turn themselves in and lived in a luxurious prison that they had built. Fearing that they were going to be murdered in the prison, they escaped and Colombia became a war zone for the Medellin cartel, the Cali cartel and the Army. Roberto was imprisoned and Pablo was eventually found and killed. A letter bomb in the prison left Roberto blind. He has had several surgeries and today, he lives on a ranch outside of Medellin and continues to recover from his wounds.
The Accountant’s Story is the story of the Medellin cartel from Roberto Escobar’s point of view. I listened to the audio version of this, which is very well read by Ruben Diaz. Parts of this story are fascinating – I was amazed at how smart these men were – they even had submarines built to smuggle the cocaine in – but parts of it are repulsive. At one point Roberto said he shouldn’t have been arrested because he hadn’t done anything wrong, yet he laundered billions of dollars. Pablo gave money to the poor – buying houses, paying medical expenses, putting people through school, etc. – and I felt like the book implied that excused all the death and destruction he caused. I do realize that he wouldn’t have earned all of that money if people hadn’t been willing to buy his product, but that does not justify his actions. I think anyone who likes true crime stories will enjoy this book.
Review copy provided by Hachette Books.