Three kidnapped Ticos were released safely Monday afternoon in Panama after their families paid a $50,000 ransom in the province of Alajuela, Costa Rica, judicial officials said. Hours later, just before 10 p.m., Costa Rica’s Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) raided the northern San José district of Tibás and the neighborhood of Barrio México, rounding up a total of eight suspects – three in Tibás and five in Barrio México – believed to have participated in the international kidnapping ring.
Early Monday morning, The Tico Times received a tip that the men had been kidnapped on Saturday in Panama by armed gunmen, and family members were negotiating a payment.
The three victims – including a 45-year-old man whose last name is Arredondo – are engineers working for a company renovating the Panama Canal.
The online daily crhoy.com reported that OIJ had cooperated throughout the day with Panamanian investigators after family members of the victims filed a complaint at OIJ’s office in Alajuela, north of the capital. The ransom was delivered in that province. Monday nights’ raids were the product of a quick investigation conducted by OIJ’s Alajuela division and members of a special organized crime unit.
Panamanian prosecutor Nathaniel Murgas told Telenoticias Channel 7 that Arredondo was at his hotel in the Panamanian city of Colón when the kidnappers abducted him.
Throughout the day Monday, The Tico Times attempted to independently confirm the kidnapping with Costa Rican and Panamanian authorities, including Panama’s National Police, Judicial Investigation Office and the Prosecutor’s Office, and Costa Rica’s OIJ and Public Security Ministry, but none acknowledged the kidnapping, pending Monday night’s raids. Several Costa Rican officials would not comment on the case, but did acknowledge there was a “situation in Panama.”
Crhoy.com on Tuesday identified a businessman with the last name Ferraro as the one who contacted OIJ on Sunday after he received a call from Panama alerting him that his friend, Arredondo, was kidnapped along with two other Ticos. The caller said he should collect $50,000 as soon as possible to secure their release.
“The [phone] conversation was interrupted by a man with Panamanian accent who told Ferraro: ‘If you want to see your friends again, you must give me $50,000,’ ” José Mena, a special prosecutor for organized crime in Costa Rica, stated in a court filing to seek warrants for Monday night’s raids. The Tico Times obtained a copy of that request.
Arredondo also called other acquaintances and told them that his captors “had released his friends Martín and Alejandro, but he [Arredondo] was being held as a guarantee for the ransom payment,” according to the warrant request.
Panamanian authorities also are conducting investigations seeking additional perpetrators of the kidnapping.
Updated Tuesday at 11:53 a.m. Follow more news at www.ticotimes.net.