A politician from the southwestern city of Cali has died in an attempted robbery, Colombia’s police said Wednesday, announcing the arrest of seven suspects.
According to National Police chief General Jose Roberto Leon, former congressman Octavio Zapata presumably died of an overdose of scopolamine, a drug used in so-called “millionaire rides” in which a victim is drugged and, because of the effects of the drug, willingly helps his assailants to get what they want.
“One common and particularly dangerous method that criminals use in order to rob a victim is through the use of drugs. The most common has been scopolamine. Unofficial estimates put the number of annual scopolamine incidents in Colombia at approximately 50,000. Scopolamine can render a victim unconscious for 24 hours or more. In large doses, it can cause respiratory failure and death. It is most often administered in liquid or powder form in foods and beverages. The majority of these incidents occur in night clubs and bars, and usually men, perceived to be wealthy, are targeted by young, attractive women. To avoid becoming a victim of scopolamine, one should never accept food or beverages offered by strangers or new acquaintances or leave food or beverages unattended. Victims of scopolamine or other drugs should seek immediate medical attention.”
U.S. State Department
While police haven’t been able to find the body of the politician, Leon said he was presumed dead after one of his alleged assailants told investigators that the politician — missing since June 24 — had been given the drug, but overdosed and died.
In total, police said to have arrested seven suspects after the robbers tried using Zapata’s bank card in the capital Bogota and were registered by surveillance cameras.
The arrests were made in Palmira, a town west of Cali. Four of the suspects belong to one family, said police.
According to the testimony of one of the suspects, the body of the former congressman was thrown in the river, which spurred police units to search for the politician’s remains in both the Censar and Cauca rivers.
Cali, where Zapata was from, is one of Colombia’s most violent cities. While crime rates throughout Colombia have gone down over the past years, those of Cali have gone up. In 2012, Cali had by far the highest homicide rates of all Colombia’s largest cities.
Zapata’s death is the second fatality in a millionaire’s ride to hit national headlines within a month. Only a few weeks ago, a DEA agent was murdered in an apparent attempt to take him on a millionaire’s ride in Bogota.