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Sunday, December 3, 2023

Costa Rica Looks to Get Tough on Organized Environmental Crime 

The Frente Amplio party proposed a new Bill of Law to strengthen the protection of the environment against criminal organizations. The plan includes reforms to several laws and doubles prison sentences for crimes against the natural heritage. It’s currently being process under File 23.952.

According to the political party, real organized crime networks are currently operating in Costa Rica, such as those dedicated to illegal logging for timber extraction, or the trafficking of endangered species of flora and fauna, the latter being one of the most profitable illicit activities worldwide.

Representatives believe that today, more than 95% of the crimes represented in existing legislation are punishable by fines or prison sentences of three years or less, which makes it more difficult to set precedents to prevent or reduce similar crimes in the future.

“The vast majority of environmental crimes are not considered serious crimes, which makes it impossible to apply to these crimes the existing tools in the law to prosecute and punish organized crime,” warned Congressman Ariel Robles.

The main objective of the bill presented today is to allow the application of the tools contemplated in the Law against Organized Crime, such as the extension of the terms of investigation and the possibility of intercepting communications, and secondly, to equate the sentences for environmental crimes to that law, by including the aggravating circumstance of being carried out by criminal organizations.

The bill includes additions to specific articles of the Wildlife Conservation Law, the Fishing and Aquaculture Law and the Law for the Protection, Conservation and Recovery of Sea Turtle Populations.

These three laws establish that prison sentences are increased 50% when “such unlawful conduct (environmental crime) is committed by a structured group of two or more persons that has existed for a certain period of time and has acted in concert with the purpose of committing such crimes.”

In addition, Frente Amplio party members pointed out that approving this bill would provide the Environmental Prosecutor’s Office and other authorities with the necessary legal tools to investigate these illegal conducts when they are committed by organized crime networks and to punish them with higher penalties.

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