A court in Costa Rica has sentenced the head of Nicaragua drug trafficking group the Tarzanes, a reflection of the criminal organization’s operational presence in this neighboring Central American country.
On September 16, a criminal court in the province of Limon sentenced three members of the Tarzanes, including their top leader, Agustín Reyes Aragón, to 12 years in prison, reported La Nacion. They were found guilty of smuggling over 700 kilos of cocaine from Colombia to Costa Rica via the Caribbean using go-fast boats.
Reyes Aragón was arrested last year in Limon alongside other members of the Tarzanes during a series of raids conducted by Costa Rican authorities.
According to Diario Extra, Reyes Aragón is also wanted in Nicaragua on drug trafficking charges. Following his arrest last year Reyes Araeogn allegedly implored Costa Rican authorities to not send him back to Nicaragua, where he claimed a Sandinista party political heavyweight had paid hit men over $3,000 to kill him.
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It was long believed the Tarzanes used Costa Rica as a hideout, and investigations beginning in 2012 by judicial officials found the group was increasingly carrying out drug trafficking operations within the country. Indeed, the Tarzanes are based in Nicaragua’s southern department of Rio San Juan — located along the border with Costa Rica and Caribbean coast — making the extension of their operations into neighboring Costa Rica a relatively easy and convenient endeavor.
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Meanwhile, the sentencing may offer some relief for Reyes Aragón. According to the bilateral treaty on extradition between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, a prisoner must complete his sentence in whichever country he is convicted before he can be extradited. Thus, it appears the ruling has shielded Reyes Aragón for at least 12 years from being sent back to Nicaragua, where there is apparently a bounty on his head.
According to Nicaragua’s police, the Tarzanes started out in the 1990s transporting cocaine shipments for Colombia’s once powerful Norte del Valle Cartel (NDVC). Although the NDVC is now defunct, the Tarzanes continue to operate as a middleman for transnational criminal groups moving Colombian cocaine to Mexico and later the United States.