Costa Rica’s Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) smashed an international gun and drug running operation supposedly linked to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in the San José neighborhood of Barrio Escalante – just a few kilometers from The Tico Times office – on Thursday night, according to OIJ Director Francisco Segura.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration alerted authorities two months ago that criminals had been ferrying heavy arms through Costa Rica, including AR-15 rifles. An OIJ agent successfully infiltrated the criminal organization, leading to the arrests.
Authorities confiscated 27 rifles, seven pistols, one revolver and a silencer. OIJ agents also seized 492 kilograms of cocaine during one of the raids that took place in capital neighborhood of Sabana Sur, Curridabat, and Barrio Escalante Thursday evening.
Five Colombians and a Nicaraguan, who have been in Costa Rica legally for between eight months and four years, were arrested.
Segura said an alleged connection existed with the FARC, an armed leftist guerrilla organization in Colombia that has alleged ties with drug trafficking, but would not elaborate. The U.S. government considers FARC a terrorist organization.
The guns originated in Germany and arrived in Costa Rica, where the suspects filed off the weapons’ serial numbers and possibly made other modifications, including alternations to make them automatic weapons, before sending them on to Mexico, according to Segura.
The Chiribogo gun store in Barrio Escalante, where the gunrunners operated, had legal permission to sell weapons.
“Let’s not kid ourselves, these weapons are here for illicit reasons,” Segura told reporters during a press conference on Friday.
Acting Costa Rican Attorney General Carlos María Jiménez said the suspects could face up to 20 years in prison if charged and found guilty.
Segura added that the DEA did not have a police presence in the raids and only participated in intelligence-sharing.
OIJ said the investigation is ongoing.
Correction Nov. 1, 2:22 p.m.: This report originally misspelled the name of the gun store as “Chiripago.”