San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Drug trafficking

Limón judge ordered release of known drug trafficker busted with 300 kilos of cocaine

Prosecutors in the province of Limón are furious over a judge’s recent decision to release on bail a known drug trafficker arrested with 300 kilograms of cocaine near the Limón airport, on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast.

Telenoticias Channel 7 first reported the story last Friday.

Family members of a suspect with the last names López Vega showed up in court last Wednesday night with ₡25 million ($46,000) in bail money already in hand as Judge Michael Cano Centeno denied a prosecutor’s motion to maintain López Vega in preventive custody pending trial. The suspect had been held in preventive detention for three months since his arrest while prosecutors gathered evidence in the case.

The previous day, the judge had granted the prosecutor’s motion, only to reverse his decision on a defense appeal the next day. Limón Assistant Prosecutor Gustavo Santamaría said the judge cited “changing circumstances” from one day to the next for his decision to reverse his own ruling.

López Vega, who already served a 10-year prison sentence on international drug trafficking charges, was arrested on Jan. 22, 2014,  along with two other suspects with the last names Vindas and Arrienta, a spokeswoman for the Prosecutor’s Office told The Tico Times. Police found 300 kilograms of cocaine in three vehicles driven by the suspects as they traveled from Cahuita, on the southern Caribbean coast, to the port city of Limón.

“The Prosecutor’s Office based its request [for an extension of the preventive sentence] on the fact that [the suspect] is a flight risk due to the severity of the crime; and in addition, [the office] communicated to the Criminal Court that the respective formal accusation had been completed within the three-month period,” the spokeswoman said in an email.

The Prosecutor’s Office cannot appeal the ruling.

The judge also transferred the case to Guapiles, a Caribbean slope town west of Limón, where the defendant will be required to register once a month with the court until a trial date is set.

“These [preventive] measures in no way bind to the legal process this defendant, who already has served 10 years in prison and is an obvious flight risk, as well as a risk to repeat the same crime,” Santamaría said.

The Prosecutor’s Office confirmed to The Tico Times that this is at least the second major alleged drug trafficker to be released on bond by a Limón judge in less than two years. In January 2013, prosecutors issued an international arrest warrant for suspect Ruadán Zamora Valerio, a Nicaraguan man who was busted months before with a ton of marijuana and later released on a ₡3 million ($5,500) bond. Zamora skipped bail and is now a fugitive from justice, along with his wife, Ivannia Zúñiga Araya.


Contact David Boddiger at dboddiger@ticotimes.net54

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Corruption and Narcos have taken over NarCosta Rica

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Ken Morris

There seem to be two possibilities: Either the judge was bribed or he and his family were threatened.

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He’s not a flight risk. He knows he will win his trial. In fact I’m certain as a repeat offender he is already back working off his losses.

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With things like this apparently epidemic ‘release from preventative detention’ incident happening repeatedly, it seems like Presidente Solís really has his work cut out for him.

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Gordon Lindley

One judge can make such a huge decision. What is your bet this guy eventually get lost an never brought to justice?? I can see why the Police do not want to risk their lives knowing some judge can make this decision. My thinking is there extortion by the criminal element … Makes you wonder what the back story really is here with judge and all. Hummm .

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That’s a lot of blow. Unless he had already paid in advance for it, I doubt he will be alive long after he’s released.

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