Thousands riot in the streets in $200 million pyramid scam
BOGOTA -- Investors defrauded in a pyramid scheme killed the public ombudsman in the southwestern Colombian town of Buesaco amid widespread rioting by victims of the financial scam, authorities said Thursday.
Bayron Santander, 25, received a gunshot to the head around midnight Wednesday, the deputy head of the Nariņo provincial government told reporters.
Fabio Trujillo said the ombudsman was slain after he carried out an order from banking authorities to inventory the cash on hand at the Buesaco branch of one of the firms involved in the fraud.
"He was vilely murdered. He counted the money according to the order of the (financial) superintendent's office and, along with other officials, left the office by another door, for fear of the multitude," gathered outside the main entrance, Trujillo said.
Seeking to flee through a rural area, Santander was intercepted by three people who accused him of taking cash from the office.
"He responded 'no', explained that he was the representative and that, to the contrary, he was defending the interests of the people. And, that said, they proceded to murder him," Trujillo said.
Santander's death is the first fatality reported after thousands of defrauded savers took to the streets across much of southwestern Colombia for protests that quickly degenerated into riots.
Police said authorities seized control of 66 branches of the largest "pyramid," DRFE.
Hundreds of cheated investors spent the night in front of the DRFE office in the town of Florida, prompting the employees to call local radio stations with frantic pleas for police protection.
Financial regulators ordered DRFE to return some $200 million to people who opened accounts with the firm, lured by the promise of high interest on their money.
Municipal authorities in five southwestern cities: Popayan, Pasto, Santander de Quilichao, Tuquerres and Ipiales, imposed curfews Wednesday night to stem the disorders. But it appears the unrest may spread to Colombia's main coffee-growing region, where several investment companies operating DRFE-style schemes went bankrupt.
President Alvaro Uribe convened a meeting with Finance Minister Oscar Ivan Zuluaga and other senior aides to address the crisis. EFE