Gilberto Molina (February 27, 1937 – February 27, 1989) was a major Colombian emerald magnate who was intimately connected to the notorious Medellín cartel and widely suspected of involvement in drug trafficking during the 1980s.
During January 1988, Molina was charged with allegations that he operated an airplane maintenance facility at Subachoque, near Bogotá, where helicopters (including Panamanian registered helicopters) were serviced secretly. He also owned a private ranch called La Fortuna, which allegedly contained sophisticated warning devices and was used as a drug distribution center. Molina was at one time a close friend and working associate of José Gonzalo Rodríguez Gacha. Before Rodríguez Gacha attained his position as one of the top leaders of the Medellin cartel, he was employed in the service of Molina as his head of security. In January 1988, Molina was arrested on a murder charge and was later implicated as the owner of a 200-hectare coca plantation in Boyacá. However, the narcotics charges were later dropped.
During 1989, he was involved in an intense power struggle over control of Colombia’s emerald mines, which are considered some of the richest in the world. Specifically, Molina was battling a rival operation, the Coscuez mines, in the violence-ridden emerald-mining district centered about 120 km northwest of Bogotá. Molina was initially assumed to be victorious in this violent struggle, along with his business partners Morita and Victor Carranza. However, any proclamation of victory soon proved to be premature. On Monday, February 27, 1989, a group consisting of around 25 uniformed men stormed into Molina’s luxurious ranch, located 72 km west of Bogotá, while Molina was hosting a housewarming party. The attackers took over the ranch without a fight and killed 18 men, including another emerald dealer, a retired police colonel in charge of Mr. Molina’s security, several bodyguards, friends and musicians. Colombian police officials speculated that the slaughter could have been on the orders of Rodríguez Gacha, who had made a failed attempt to elbow Molina out of the emerald profession.
Despite the widespread suspicion of involvement in cocaine trafficking, Molina was also regarded as a public benefactor, spending nearly $500,000 on building a town hall, airport, a road and schools.
- The New York Times, March 1, 1989