New details have emerged about the assassination of Paraguayan prosecutor Marcelo Pecci, including that the hit was methodically planned in the Colombian city of Medellín, that its intellectual authors in Paraguay paid more than $500,000 and that Brazil's most powerful gang was involved.
Four of the five people accused of participating in the murder plot of Pecci, who was shot dead May 10 while on honeymoon near Cartagena, have pleaded guilty to homicide charges. Colombia's Attorney General, Francisco Barbosa, provided details of the crime in a news conference June 7, four days after the five were arrested during an operation by Colombian police in Medellín.
Prosecutors accused Francisco Luis Correa of being the alleged mastermind of Pecci's murder. Correa pleaded not guilty to the murder charges. According to El Espectador, Correa is a former Colombian soldier in the Army's 4th Brigade. He was also convicted of sexual violence, serving a sentence until 2011.
Prosecutors also named Venezuelan national Wendre Still Scott Carrillo as the suspected shooter. Others involved, according to prosecutors, included Eiverson Adrían Arrieta Zabaleta, who was in charge of transport and logistics; and Marisol Londoño Bedoya and her son Cristian Camilo Monsalve Londoño, who tracked the movements of Pecci in Cartagena.
According to a timeline of events provided by the Attorney General's Office, the five alleged perpetrators met May 5 at the Plaza Minorista, a massive marketplace in Medellín. The next day they traveled to Cartagena, where Londoño Bedoya and her son set up in a hotel in the city's center, while Zabaleta and Carrillo holed up in the beachside sector of El Laguito. Correa stayed elsewhere to "coordinate the illegal action," prosecutors said in the news release.
On May 9, Londoño Bedoya and her son transferred to a hotel on the island of Barú, where Pecci and his wife, Claudia Aguilera, were lodged. They paid for three days at the hotel and began to follow Pecci. From the time they arrived, Bedoya called Correa some three dozen times, prosecutors said.
The next day, Carrillo and Zabaleta drove in a rented vehicle to Playa Blanca, on Barú and adjacent to the Decameron Hotel where Pecci and his wife were staying. The pair paid for a jetski, and then met with Londoño Bedoya and her son. To show where Pecci and his wife were on the beach, "they gave indications with the movements of their arms," prosecutors said.
The gunman approached the private beach on the jetski and shot Pecci three times, prosecutors said. Afterward, the gunman returned on the jetski to Playa Blanca, throwing the gun into the ocean.
In the course of the investigation, authorities collected 200 pieces of evidence and reviewed 2,500 hours of video collected from 120 security cameras. More than 60 calls were intercepted, and 20 sites were investigated. Some two dozen interviews were conducted, Attorney General Barbosa said in the news release.
The "crime was paid or negotiated for more than two billion pesos (about $530,000)," Barbosa said.
Three of the people accused in the murder are planning to cooperate with the authorities, and could possibly offer information about who ordered the assassination of the celebrated organized crime prosecutor.
In Paraguay, authorities have raided the prison cells of several individuals who were being investigated by the prosecutor.
InSight Crime Analysis
The hundreds of thousands of dollars paid for Pecci's killing points to the clear involvement of organized crime groups in Paraguay and Brazil, and a host of major players have emerged.
Colombia Police Director General Jorge Luis Vargas said in a tweet that Brazil's most powerful gang, the First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC), coordinated Pecci's killing, adding that an "agreement existed among international criminal organizations" for a plan to assassinate him.
"Because of criminal coordination between them, in line with what my Paraguayan colleagues have informed me, the homicide could not be completed in Paraguay," Vargas said.
Pecci was a central figure in the fight against the PCC in Paraguay, leading several high-profile cases targeting not only members of the group but also high-ranking justice officials.
In the border city of Pedro Juan Caballero, in the Amambay department, the PCC’s presence is no secret. Among the investigations carried out by the prosecutor is one related to Brazilian drug trafficker Sergio de Arruda Quintiliano Netto, alias “Minotauro,” the leader of the PCC in the region who is in prison in Brazil.
A series of leaked emails indicate that Brazil’s Ministry of Justice had asked the prosecutor for information about Minotauro's alleged relationship with Paraguay prosecutor and former Vice Minister of Criminal Policy, Hugo Volpe Mazó, who resigned in January 2020 after drug trafficking corruption allegations emerged. Brazilian authorities have been investigating links between Minotauro and Volpe Mazó, including allegations of bribery.
Another theory about Pecci's murder is that it is related to a mega-operation that uncovered the relationship between drug traffickers and politicians in Paraguay.
Operation A Ultranza PY, which started on February 22, dismantled a cocaine trafficking network between Paraguay and Europe that involved several politicians and members of a church.
Although Pecci was not directly involved with the operation, he was in charge of two related murder probes.
The first was the killing of Paraguayan businessman Mauricio Schwartzman in September 2021. According to declarations made by Pecci in March 2022, one of the individuals investigated in Operation A Ultranza PY was suspected to have ordered the murder. Schwartzman was linked to the drug trafficking network, according to information from Paraguay prosecutors. He allegedly gave cocaine shipment orders to Luis Fernando Sebriano, one of the individuals arrested in the operation.