The trial of nine suspected Puerto Rican hitmen, accused of at least five gangland murders, has begun in the Dominican Republic.
Prosecutors in the Dominican capital, Santo Domingo, have formally accused the nine of involvement in the murder of five people, including police Colonel Jose Gonzalez Gonzalez and businessman Ruben Soto Hayet, as well as a number of other armed attacks.
At the trial, district prosecutor Candida Ramos described the crimes, which were all committed in broad daylight in public places in Santo Domingo, including the parking lot of a busy shopping mall.
The accused are all alleged to have had links with the drug trafficking and money laundering network of Puerto Rican drug lord Jose David Figueroa Agosto. It is alleged that Figueroa paid $30,000 for each murder.
Figueroa, who was considered by U.S. authorities to be the "Pablo Escobar of the Caribbean," was arrested in July 2010 in Puerto Rico and transferred to a New York prison to face charges in the U.S.
Figueroa is linked to at least 8.5 tons of cocaine brought into the U.S. from the Dominican Republic between 1994 and 2008.