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Woman accused of planning murder of Paraguayan anti-mafia prosecutor who was shot dead on beach while on honeymoon

A woman suspected in the murder of a Paraguayan anti-mafia prosecutor was expelled from El Salvador on Saturday and handed over to Colombian authorities, the Colombian prosecutor’s office said.

Margareth L Chacon Zuniga is accused of being involved in the “planning, financing and logistics of the murder of prosecutor Marcelo Pecci” and on Sunday was scheduled to appear before a supervisory judge, the investigative body said on Twitter.

Her capture brings to seven the number of people detained over Pecci’s murder in May last year.

The prosecutor was killed in front of his pregnant wife, Paraguayan journalist Claudia Aguilera, while they were on their honeymoon on the Colombian island of Baru, near the tourist port of Cartagena on the Caribbean coast.

Just two hours before the attack, Aguilera had posted a picture on her Instagram account announcing that they were expecting a baby, the BBC reported. Aguilera has recounted that two men arrived on the beach on a jet ski or small boat. One approached Pecci, and “without a word,” shot him twice.

El Salvador’s Justice Minister Gustavo Villatoro earlier announced Chacon’s expulsion on Twitter, accompanied by photographs showing the 42-year-old Colombian woman being escorted by Interpol agents as she boarded a plane.

“We reiterate: El Salvador will not be a refuge for international criminals,” Villatoro wrote.

Chacon was arrested on Wednesday together with Salvadoran Wilber Huezo, 47, who is accused of having hidden her in the Central American country.

Salvadoran authorities raided two houses where the suspect was hiding and seized Colombian passports, cellphones, laptops, and about 15,000 euros ($16,000), as well as some dollars and Colombian and Mexican pesos.

Colombian, Paraguayan and U.S. authorities are searching for the masterminds of the assassination, who they say are linked to drug trafficking networks.

Margareth Lizeth Chacon Zuniga, who, according to authorities, participated in murder of Paraguayan prosecutor Pecci, is presented to media in San Salvador
Margareth Lizeth Chacon Zuniga, who ellegedly participated in the murder of Paraguayan prosecutor Marcelo Pecci, assassinated on the island of Baru near Cartagena, Colombia, is presented to the media after her detention in San Salvador, El Salvador January 18, 2023.

JOSE CABEZAS / REUTERS


Pecci investigated crime gangs based in Brazil and money launderers in an area where the borders of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina converge.

In November, the U.S. State Department offered a reward of $5 million for information “leading to the arrests and/or convictions of the as yet unknown individuals who conspired or attempted to participate” in the assassination. 

Four of the people arrested so far, including the hitman, pleaded guilty and were sentenced to 23 years in prison in June.

Last month, Venezuela’s interior minister shared a video with journalists in which Gabriel Carlos Luis Salinas Mendoza, a Venezuelan citizen arrested in Caracas, appears to confess to his part in the killing of Marcelo Pecci.

“We rented a jet ski, we went to Baru beach (in Colombia) and we executed” the crime, Salinas, one of two alleged hitmen, is seen telling interrogators.

Afterwards, “I got $8,000 and came to Venezuela” across the border.

Salinas is accused of having driven the jet ski.

PARAGUAY-COLOMBIA-CRIME-DRUGS-PECCI
Paraguayan anti-drug prosecutor Marcelo Pecci speaks in Asuncion on November 9, 2021. 

DANIEL DUARTE/AFP via Getty Images


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