Darkside maker Enrique Portocarrero of Colombia is alleged to have designed and built up to 20 fiberglass submarines for transporting cocaine.
"He had a marvelous criminal vision," Colombian navy Capt. Luis German Borrero said. "He introduced innovations such as a bow that produced very little wake, a conning tower that rises only a foot above the water and a valve system that enables the crew to scuttle the sub in 10 minutes. He is very ingenious."
Portocarrero was living well. Police, who reported finding $200,000 hidden in the spare tire of his car, say he had invested his reputed $1-million-per-vessel fees in the purchase of five shrimp boats.
Administrative Security officials allege that Portocarrero helped invent "semi-submersibles," as the narco-vessels are called, because they don't dive and resurface like true submarines, but cruise just below the surface.
Portocarrero's craft are difficult for counter-narcotics officials to detect on the open seas because their tiny wake creates a negligible radar "footprint." Also, authorities say, the exhaust is released through tubing below the surface, frustrating patrol aircraft's heat-sensing equipment.