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Friday, March 24, 2023

Costa Rican cops discover possible cocaine-processing lab, four more helipads in latest raid

Early Friday morning, Costa Rica’s Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) discovered four helipads and a supposed cocaine-processing laboratory on a sprawling farm in an area known as La Argentina, outside Pocora, Limón, the third such camp raided since October.

Authorities said the camp resembled another one raided in October in Curtis de San Carlos, in northern Costa Rica, where they found a rocket launcher and other weapons, more helipads and fuel containers. 

Acetic acid

Judicial Investigation Police found 20 empty containers with acetic acid residue, a chemical used in the processing of cocaine. Courtesy OIJ

OIJ agents found 20 empty containers with acetic acid residue, a chemical used in the processing of cocaine, leading them to suspect the area was used as an illicit drug laboratory. While authorities suspect illicit drugs had been stashed at these camps, police have yet to find any. According to a previous email to The Tico Times from a Public Security Ministry spokesman, to date police have discovered only weapons and fuel.

In the latest raid, police also discovered 84 fuel containers, of which 25 were full of Jet A1 fuel. 

No arrests were made today.

OIJ Assistant Director Gustavo Mata told reporters Friday that the mountainous terrain where these cells have been operating makes arrests difficult. 

The OIJ said that a foreign national “administers” the 740-acre property where the helipads were found, but stopped short of identifying the suspect’s nationality or name. A main residence and three smaller homes are located on the farm.

Local residents alerted authorities six months ago that a low-flying green helicopter often passed over the area, prompting an investigation two months ago, according to Mata and a statement from OIJ.

Border Police discovered the first in this series of camps less than 4 miles from the Nicaraguan border in Curtis, San Carlos, on Oct. 9. No arrests were made.

Last Saturday, Nov. 2, the Public Security Ministry raided another camp in Las Asturias, Pococí, Limón, that also had a helipad, as well as $50,000 in cash and AK-47 assault rifles. Police arrested two suspects allegedly connected to the illegal weapons seized at the Asturias camp this week, and a judge ordered them to six moths preventative detention, the daily La Nación reported.

Mata expressed his frustration with law enforcement’s inability to make more arrests or confiscate the helicopters used by the suspects. The OIJ assistant director floated the idea of requesting additional assistance from the United States or other allies to tackle the well-armed organized criminals.

“The strategy we’ve been using isn’t working. We need to explore other ideas,” he said on Friday. 

Authorities were still investigating the latest site when this story was posted. 

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