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Norman's Cay

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Country  Bahamas
Time zone  EST (UTC−5)
Island  Exuma
Area code  242
Norman's Cay httpsthevelvetrocketfileswordpresscom20080

Carlos lehder s home on norman s cay

Norman's Cay is a small Bahamian island (a few hundred acres) in the Exumas, a chain of islands south and east of Nassau, that served as the headquarters for Carlos Lehder's drug-smuggling operation from 1978 to around 1982.


Map of Norman's Cay, The Bahamas

2 sailing the bahamas bimini to norman s cay

Drug smuggling historyEdit

As part of the Medellín Cartel, Lehder used the island as a transshipment base for smuggling cocaine into the United States. Lehder, before with his partner George Jung and later through Norman's Cay, is often credited with revolutionizing drug smuggling. The typical method of transporting small shipments, often carried by human drug mules, either through ingestion or in their luggage, onto commercial airlines, was surpassed by the use of small aircraft shipping entire loads of cocaine.

Lehder eventually constructed a 3,300-foot (1,000 m) long runway for his fleet of aircraft. In order to protect the island, armed guards and attack dogs patrolled the beaches and runway, and radar was employed. Any pilot foolish enough to land there was quickly warned off by heavily armed guards. The island was a strategic point for Colombian drug flights to refuel and rest before proceeding to the United States.

The island became a location for partying. Carlos Toro remembers, "Norman's Cay was a playground. I have a vivid picture of being picked up in a Land Rover with the top down and naked women driving to come and welcome me from my airplane... And there we partied. And it was a Sodom and Gomorrah... drugs, sex, no police... you made the rules... and it was fun."

Marine biologist Richard E. Novak, the island's former dive master, fought back, waging a heroic but ultimately futile one-man war to liberate Norman's Cay. Not until 1982, under pressure from US law enforcement, and despite years of turning a blind eye, did the Bahamian government begin to crack down on the island's drug-smuggling operations. In 1987, after Lehder was arrested in Colombia and extradited to stand trial in the U.S., his property was confiscated. It is now a tourist destination reachable by charter flight.

Recent yearsEdit

The island was again a subject of (minor) controversy when the newly elected Progressive Liberal government honored a pre-election in-principle agreement to sell the government-owned portion of the island, valued at $40.5 million; despite the objections of the local MP. The government believes it may encourage further foreign investment.

The island's consortium of local and foreign owners, including Bahamians Mark Holowesko, Martin Solomon, Greg Cleare, James Cole, US investor J. Steven Manolis and Jonathan Breene, had planned to include a resort chain Aman Resorts. The island has purportedly been sold to the Miami-based Fort Capital Group.

In popular cultureEdit

Norman's Cay has featured in multiple works.


  • The biopic Blow (2001), starring Johnny Depp as George Jung, features Norman's Cay.
  • In June 2015, it was announced that a movie deal to adapt the novel Heavy, parts of which are set on Norman's Cay, had been struck with Denis Leary and Apostle Films.
  • LiteratureEdit

  • Blow: How a Small Town Boy Made $100 Million with the Medellín Cocaine Cartel and Lost It All (1993) by George Jung and author Bruce Porter, features Norman's Cay, as does the 2001 film based on the book
  • Mid Ocean (2009), a novel by T. Rafael Cimino about drug smugglers and the federal agents who chase them, references Norman's Cay. The novel is set in the Florida Keys in the mid 1980s and was listed as one of the top 20 novels to read before being made into a film.
  • Turning The Tide: One Man Against the Medellin Cartel (2010) by Sidney D. Kirkpatrick, a true story of the college professor who brought a ruthless cocaine kingpin to justice, features Norman's Cay
  • Heavy (2014), by T. Rafael Cimino and George Jung. Parts of Heavy take place on Norman's Cay.
  • References

    Norman's Cay Wikipedia