Dramatic new evidence in the unsolved murder of SOFIA VERGARA’s beloved older brother has been un­covered by a private investigator in Colom­bia, The ENQUIRER has learned exclusively.

Sources now say a drug kingpin may have been involved in the coldblooded assassination of busi­nessman Rafael Jose Vergara – and the investigator is pushing police to re-open the ice-cold case!

As part of an exhaustive probe, The ENQUIRER traveled to “Modern Family” star Sofia’s hometown in South America to dig up details of the brutal crime that ripped her family apart 16 years ago.

“It’s time the police re-open this case so Sofia can finally get justice for her brother’s brutal killing,” private investigator Marcos Ru­bio told The ENQUIRER in a world exclusive interview.

“Sofia deserves to finally know who took her brother’s life!”

The Latina sexpot was just 24 when her 26-year-old brother was gunned down on Aug. 12, 1996, in the Vergara family’s hometown of Barranquilla, Colombia.

NOW, RUBIO has uncovered incriminating new evidence that could solve the case.

“I’ve learned that there were witnesses at the scene who were afraid to talk at the time, or may have been blackmailed,” Rubio told The ENQUIRER. “That was to be expected back then, but there have been whispers for years about who was behind the killing. It’s time the family knows the truth.”

Rubio told The ENQUIRER that, according to his investigation, rumors were rampant that Rafael, who was married at the time, may have been involved with a woman who was dating an associate of crime boss Diego Leon Montoya Sanchez, leader of Colombia’s notorious Norte del Valle drug cartel.

“There was talk that Rafael had a woman on the side who was the girlfriend of a well-known drug crime boss,” a Vergara family friend, who is speaking out for the first time, told The ENQUIRER.

“All his friends told him to break it off, but Rafael wouldn’t listen. A lot of people believe that the mobster found out about Rafael and his girl and ordered the hit.”

But according to Rubio, police never checked out the rumors.

“Clearly, the police investigation into Sofia’s brother’s death should focus on this organized crime boss and his associates,” Rubio told The ENQUIRER. “There is evidence that needs to be looked at in terms of their possible connection to the murder.”

Rafael had borrowed a red Toyota Land Cruiser and was returning it to a close friend, who lived at the dimly lit intersection of 58th Road and 94th Street in the city’s northern section.

Police reports reviewed by The ENQUIRER indicate that Rafael had parked the vehicle and was talking on his mobile phone at 10:45 p.m.

As he stepped out of the vehicle, Rafael was blasted by a hail of gunfire. He tried to run away, but two assailants then shot him at close range. Two bullets lodged in his head, and another in his neck.

According to authorities, Rafael never exchanged words with the shooters, who fled on foot and got into a car driven by a third suspect. From the first, police suspected the murder was a gang­land-style hit.

The unidentified friend of Rafael, who lived nearby, heard the gunfire and rushed the wounded man to the emergen­cy room of the Clinica del Caribe.

Rafael, a cattle rancher business­man who was also the father of a 4-year-old girl named Claudia, was pronounced dead an hour later.

At the time, police chief Colonel Pinzon Naranjo said: “We are working very hard to find the perpetrators and the masterminds of this tragic crime in order to apprehend the criminals.”

But no arrests were ever made, and a still-heartbroken Sofia has called her brother’s murder a “nightmare.”

“We come from a success­ful family, and he knew he was a target for kidnapping,” she said in an interview. “He always had bodyguards. Then one day he went out alone and was shot dead. I was devastated.”

But now, armed with fresh evidence that Rafael’s death may have been linked to associates of Montoya, private investigator Rubio visited police in Barranquilla on Feb. 9. He was accompanied by an ENQUIRER reporter.

“We’re asking cops to re-open the case based on extensive research and the names of possible suspects I’ve obtained,” Rubio said.

After reviewing Rubio’s presenta­tion, a high-ranking Barranquilla police official agreed to speak to The ENQUIRER.

Due to the sensitive nature of the case, he asked not to be identified, but said: “Times have changed and citizens are now less fright­ened about bringing criminals to justice. The killers of Sofia Vergara’s brother are still at large. But with this new information, it’s possible his murder could be solved.”

FOR THE FULL STORY with ALL the details, new evidence and shocking crime scene photos – it’s ONLY in the new ENQUIRER – ON SALE NOW!