A raid carried out during the PCD operation

Authorities in Costa Rica have dismantled a Colombia to Belgium cocaine trafficking network allegedly formed and run by Costa Rican nationals, indicating local crime is stepping up its role in trafficking as the international drug trade takes root in the country.

Costa Rica's Drug Control Police (PCD) arrested 12 Costa Ricans, including the group's alleged leader, on the Caribbean Coast and near the capital, San Jose, on December 17. Days earlier, Belgian authorities arrested a French person accused of involvement in the operation, reported La Nacion. Two Bank of Costa Rica (BCR) employees and two police accused of assisting operations were also arrested, reported El Guardian.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Costa Rica

Authorities said the group, which was discovered two years ago, sent fishing boats off the coast of Limon to receive Colombian drug shipments. They then disguised the drugs among legal goods that were shipped to Belgium. The ring was allegedly responsible for 28.5 kilos of cocaine seized in Belgium in November 2011, as well as over a ton of cocaine caught off the Limon coast in May this year. 

The proceeds were passed to their BCR connections, which helped to launder nearly $200,000 in drug trafficking funds, police say.

Attorney General Jorge Chavarria called the group "the most important that has been dismantled here in history."

InSight Crime Analysis

Costa Rica has risen to become a major transport hub in recent years, as evidenced by rising cocaine seizures -- 17.5 tons this year, compared with 15.5 in 2012 and 7.4 in 2011. Concurrently, various foreign groups have set up shop in Costa Ricaamong them Mexico's Knights Templar and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

There are signs the domestic drug trade is growing with this transnational presence, indicated by a high percentage of drug-related arrests this year, and a rising homicide rate. Costa Ricans have also been arrested for assisting Mexican cartels, showing they are involved in the transnational aspect of the trade.

The latest case indicates Costa Ricans have moved their involvement in the international cocaine trade to the next level. It provides a clear example of a Costa Rican led and financed network purchasing cocaine directly from suppliers and transporting it to one of the world's main consumer markets.  

The fact Belgium was the destination is also significant -- Latin American drug traffickers are increasingly tapping into the European cocaine market, and while Spain has traditionally been the main port of entry, Belgium's has been noted as a progressively more important portal.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
Prev Next

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

Local police and justice officials are convinced that the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) has strengthened its presence along the East Coast of the United States. The alarm follows a recent spate of violence -- of the type not seen in a decade -- which included dismembered bodies and...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

Guatemala's Mafia State and the Case of Mauricio López Bonilla

Guatemala's Mafia State and the Case of Mauricio López Bonilla

Former Guatemalan Interior Minister Mauricio López Bonilla -- a decorated war hero and a longtime US ally -- finds himself treading water amidst a flurry of accusations about corruption and his connections to drug traffickers. López Bonilla is not the most well-known suspect in the cases against...

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

Special Agent David LeValley headed the criminal division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Washington office until last November 8. While in office, he witnessed the rise of the MS13, the Barrio 18 (18th Street) and other smaller gangs in the District of Columbia as well...

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

Throughout the continent, the debate on whether or not the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang is working with or for drug traffickers continues. In this investigation, journalist Carlos García tells the story of how a member of the MS13 entered the methamphetamine distribution business under the powerful auspices...