What Happened to Manuel Charlín Gama? Where are His Kids Now?

Image Credit: Customs-Border Patrol-Coast Guard/YouTube

Even though the Netflix crime show, ‘Clanes,’ better known as ‘Gangs of Galicia,’ does not equip a biographical account of the Spanish drug lord Manuel Charlín Gama’s life, it still garners significant inspiration from the same. Notably, his well-known feud with a traitor from his inner circle and the speculation regarding the latter’s death becomes the fodder for the show’s real-life inspired premise. Therefore, through certain aspects of the central antagonist, Jose Padin, and his crime family operating out of the scenic small town of Cambados, the show subtly alludes to the real-life drug kingpin and his infamous ring, Los Charlines. Consequently, the fictionalized version of Charlín is bound to incite curiosity about the real man, his life, and the current whereabouts of his clan, notoriously made up of his own family members.

Manuel Charlín Gama Rose to Prominence in the 70s

Manuel Charlín Gama forayed into the illegal world of smuggling with his brother, José Luis, as the duo started smuggling tobacco into Spain through the port region of Galicia during the 70s. Even though, at the time, smuggling already had a lucrative history in the area, the brothers were able to carve out a significance for themselves in the market and ran the biggest Spanish tobacco operation of their time. Naturally, their business took to hashish and cocaine smuggling as well once the opportunities presented themselves. As such, their clan— which already sported a pseudo-mafia structure, ripe with the involvement of various other Charlín family members— came to be known as Los Charlines.

Manuel Charlín Gama//Image Credit: EL PAÍS/Youtube

By the 1980s, Los Charlines had more than established themselves as a crucial cog in Galician criminality, with Charlín sustaining multiple run-ins with the law. Nevertheless, despite his numerous experiences with imprisonment throughout the decade, the man kept returning to a life of crime. According to The Guardian, the drug kingpin once confessed that he was “incapable of living within the law.” Yet, Charlín faced an extended separation from the center of crimes in the 1990s with the launch of the dedicated police investigation, Operación Nécora, created to put an end to Galician drug trafficking rings.

Although Charlín saw an acquittal after his initial arrest, the authorities eventually managed to secure testimony against him by Manuel Baúlo, a member of his own crime family. Eventually, Baúlo found himself a victim of Colombian hitmen who killed him in the same year that he turned on his boss. Due to the Galician drug lord’s connection to Colombian criminals through his business, as well as the assassination’s timing, many believe Charlín to have connections to the murder. Still, neither he nor anyone from his family were ever convicted of the crime. In the end, the police used Baúlo’s testimony to arrest Charlín, resulting in decades-long prison sentences for the man.

Charlín’s Return To Crime in the 2010s

After his arrest under Operación Nécora, Charlín collected a few other convictions and ended up spending 20 years in prison. In his absence, his family maintained Los Charlines’ ties to criminality through numerous alleged drug trafficking and money laundering schemes. The head’s multiple business ventures, such as real estate investments, seafood cookers, canneries, and mussels, were passed onto his various heirs. Still, the family suffered under his absence as the authorities began seizing their assets over the course of a number of operations. Eventually, by 2010, Charlín was released from prison and integrated back into society. Although many expected their 78-year-old patriarch to remain in retirement after his prison release, the same wasn’t the case.

Manuel Charlín Gama//Image Credit: Customs-Border Patrol-Coast Guard/YouTube

In April 2018, Charlín ran into some trouble after two hooded robbers attacked him and his son, Melchor, in their house, leaving the two beaten up. Months later, in August, the father-son duo made headlines after the police traced a 2.4 tonnes cocaine shipment in the Azores back to the father-son duo. Thus, at 85, Charlín once again saw an arrest alongside his various family members who were involved in the old-school smuggling scheme. Nonetheless, he was bailed out of jail shortly after.

Charlín Passed Away in 2021

Near the end of his life, in his 80s, Charlín’s influence over the criminal business began to minimize. By then, he was living in Vilanova de Arousa, or Pontevedra, in Galicia— his hometown, where he is said to have lived a routine life. In his life’s routine, periodic altercations with law enforcement remained a consistent addition. Nevertheless, the end of his days arrived without any involvement from his criminal ties.

On December 31, 2021— New Year’s Eve— Charlín visited a local pub where he was a regular. As per reports, upon his return from the establishment, he underwent a fatal cardiac arrest and passed away on the same day. Thus, at the age of 89, Charlín died, leaving his family’s well-established criminal reputation in the hands of his kids and grandkids.

Charlín’s Heirs Saw Recent Accquital in a Money Laundering Case

In 2008, the authorities launched Operation Repesca, which investigated and exposed Los Charlines’ generational alleged involvement in money laundering. Although it took 13 years, in 2023, the case against the family was finally brought to trial. By then, three of the accused Charlíns had already died—- including Josefa Pomares, the patriarch’s wife who died in 2012, and Manuel, his son who passed away in 2019. Still, several other members of the family, his kids, María Josefa, María Teresa, Francisco Melchor, and Óscar Felipe Charlín Pomares, and two grandchildren, Noemí Outón Charlín and Natalia Somoza Charlín— became a part of the trial.

In the trial, the National Court assessed their involvement in money laundering schemes with drug trafficking money. Since Manuel Charlín Gama himself was considered to be the mastermind behind the family’s illegal activities— from drug trafficking to money laundering— many believed his death weakened the chances of his heirs’ conviction. On the other hand, some of the accused, such as Josefa and Óscar Charlín, already held ties to money laundering in previous court sentencing. Yet, in 2023, the National Court ended up acquitting all the accused Charlíns, two lawyers, and one businessman.

The acquittal was met with significant public backlash as the Charlín family’s existing reputation clashed with The National Court’s decision. Therefore, as of June 2024, the Special Anti-Drug Prosecutor’s Office prepared an appeal against the acquittal, challenging the previous conclusion of “non-existence of evidence.” Ultimately, it seems that the Charlíns continue to remain in the news due to their lifelong connections to criminality.

Read More: Gangs of Galicia: Inspired by a True Spanish Mafia Story