Colombia considers new bill to prevent ‘millionaires rides’

Senator Armando Benedetti of the coalition U Party introduced a bill on Tuesday to try and stop “millionaires’ rides,” a criminal phenomenon in which a victim is drugged and made to empty bank accounts or ransack his home.

According to newspaper El Pais, Mr Benedetti said he has introduced the bill “to increase the safety and quality of the overall taxi service.”

He went on to say that “in the last two years, more than 200 people have been victims of the “millionaire’s ride” and so far this year there have been 35 reports of this crime in Bogota, according to police figures.”

The “millionaire’s ride” is a relatively – and unfortunately – regular occurrence, particularly in Bogota. As well as being recognized by Senator Benedetti as a major problem with taxis it is also discussed at length by several travel guides, such as Bradt, Lonely Planet and Wikitravel.

Bradt advises travellers “don’t get into a taxi if there is anyone else in the car and don’t be tempted to hail a taxi off the street.”

Wikitravel says that concerning taxi rides “the most dangerous is the very common “Paseo Millonario” (Millionaire Ride), in which the cab driver picks up his accomplices along the way and together they take your valuables, including money from your cards, forcing you to withdraw cash from ATMs until your withdrawal limit is reached. To add insult to injury, they can keep you past midnight and withdraw your daily limit a second time.”

Some of the measures suggested by the Senator are clearly a direct response to the specific patterns of these attacks. As has been noted when the attackers keep the victim to withdraw money after midnight, Mr Benedetti has suggested “restricting the withdrawal from money” from ATMs between 10pm and 6am.

It is thought that one of the triggers for the proposed bill is the murder of Terry Watson, an American DEA agent who was killed after taking a taxi from the street in Bogota when leaving a pub.

MORE: Colombia Police Offer $26K Reward For Information On DEA Agent’s Killers

He has also called for taxi’s to be fitted with mandatory GPS and panic buttons, with drivers and companies who are not complient being hit with heavy penalties. The new measures would see new drivers checked for criminal records in order to prevent previous offenders from having the chance to commit further offences.

MORE: Bogota taxi drivers to serve as Colombian capital’s ‘guardian angels’

It has also been suggested that a database, accessible by any citizen, would be set up with a profile of each taxi driver. The information supplied would include “the name and number of the driver, photo , identification number, date of training, a company to which it belongs, the license number and vehicle driven company.” Companies that fail to collect the information would be subject to heavy fines.


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