Colombia’s Supreme Court Wednesday upheld the 37-year prison sentence of a prominent gambling businesswoman, ending her last chance at overturning her conviction in the 2001 murder of what paramilitaries considered a FARC collaborator.
Enilse Lopez, the head of a gambling empire in the Sucre region, has been using her significant resources to draw out various legal battles for years now, after being convicted of ties to paramilitary organizations and, in this case, the murder of Fabian Ochoa, a highway toll operator whom she had killed by paramilitaries on the suspicion that he was cooperating with Colombia’s oldest leftist guerrilla group, the FARC. With a powerful legal team, and virtually limitless funds to draw from, Lopez has prolonged the implementation of her sentence since it was originally handed down in 2011.
But judge Gustavo Malo effectively ended the long circus that has been her appeals process, denying her request for an annulment of the conviction, and ordering that a medical evaluation determine her fitness to serve time in federal prison.
Known as ‘La Gata’ — The Cat — in popular media, Lopez is a controversial figure in Colombia. For the better part of a decade, she has faced accusations of using her economic monopoly over the Sucre departmnent to influence politics, with strong financial and political ties to ex-president Alvaro Uribe, as well as proven links to several of Colombia’s disbanded paramilitary organizations.
Lopez, whose son is now an acting senator, is being forced to pay indemnity to Ochoa’s widow for the role she played in her husband’s murder, as well as a sizable sum for her paramilitary activities, and is now facing the prospect of being moved from house arrest to federal prison, depending on the outcome of a medical exam ordered by the court.