An elderly German woman has been arrested for hiring hitmen from criminal group the Urabeños to recover stolen valuables, a case which may raise some eyebrows even as it points to a greater lack of confidence in Colombia's justice system.
Wilhelma Jansen, who had lived in Santa Marta for over 25 years, turned to the Urabeños in November 2012 to recover jewelry and money that were stolen from her home by a group of thieves. One of the thieves was killed by the Urabeños shortly afterwards, and investigators in the case learned that the group had been hired by a foreigner, reported El Tiempo.
During the joint operation, authorities from the Prosecutor General's Office and anti-narcotics police also arrested 19 members of the Urabeños believed to be responsible for at least 12 murders in the past year, reported Semana, among them two of the murderers allegedly contracted by Jansen. The German citizen faces charges for homicide and conspiracy to commit a crime.
InSight Crime Analysis
The Urabeños are now arguably the most powerful criminal group in Colombia and the only one that still has a national presence, according to the government. The Caribbean, specifically the area around Santa Marta, is the group's powerbase. Although the Urabeños are better known for its drug trafficking operations, Urabeños members have served as hired killers in Santa Marta before -- an alleged assassin arrested in February was accused of forming part of an Urabeños network of "sicarios," or hitmen. The group was also allegedly behind the murder of an indigenous leader in 2011.
SEE MORE: Coverage of the Urabeños
Jansen's may be an isolated case, but it is nevertheless indicative of how some may be willing to rely on hired killers as a fast track justice mechanism, in place of the police and courts. Santa Marta is facing its own problems with rising crime and violence, which police have not managed to reign in: it was recently listed as the world's 29th most dangerous city.