Colombian Couple on Trial for Plot to Kill Witness

A Colombian couple living in Israel was arrested yesterday on suspicion of planning to kill a prosecution witness from a 12-year-old murder trial involving a third Colombian. The latter, who is presently serving a life sentence for murdering a money changer in Israel, is also alleged to have been involved in the plot.

The remand against the couple, Elizabeth Cardona, 43 and Ardilio Oscar, 23, was extended for six days. Other arrests are also expected in the case.

Cardona is a single mother who has been living in Israel for nine years; Oscar came to Israel eight months ago. Police suspect that Cardona and Oscar conspired with the prisoner, Fredo Silgado, to kill one of the prosecution witnesses, after the witness filed a complaint against them.

Silgado shot money changer Boris Petraktzishvilli, the son of the owner of a currency exchange business, during a robbery he committed with others 12 years ago. Silgado and his accomplices were apprehended after fleeing the scene and later tried. Silgado was convicted of one count of murder as well as the attempted murder of another man he shot.

Two weeks ago, police began an undercover investigation of a complaint that Cardona and her boyfriend Oscar were conspiring with Silgado to kill one of the prosecution witnesses from Silgado's trial. They were supposedly taking steps to hire a hit-man from Colombia. Police believe the suspects had already procured the weapon to carry out the murder.

Yesterday afternoon the couple was brought to the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court, where a police representative presented Judge Daniela Cherizli with the evidence collected so far. He noted that Silgado had not yet been questioned and that other suspects were also allegedly involved in the affair.

However, the couple's lawyers argued that the story was false because so much time had elapsed between Silgado's conviction and the complaint that he was involved in attempting to murder one of the witnesses who testified against him. They also said individuals from the Colombian community in Israel had falsely accused their clients in order to hurt Cardona because she had refused to help them smuggle drugs into Israel from Colombia.

"She herself told one of her accusers that she would tell the police about the false accusations, and a half-hour later she was arrested on these serious allegations," Arik Kadosh, one of Cardona's attorneys, told the court yesterday.

Cherizli ordered the couple's six-day remand, noting that the initial evidence against both suspects had merit, particularly with regard to steps allegedly taken by Cardona to bring a hired assassin or assassins to Israel.