San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Finance Ministry proposes tougher sanctions to crack down on contraband smuggling

Finance Ministry officials say they will send a bill to the Legislative Assembly in coming days that would impose severe sanctions for the smuggling of contraband products into Costa Rica.

The bill proposes prison terms of up to 15 years for those convicted of illegally transporting goods into the country. Current legislation sets maximum jail terms at eight years.

The proposal also would reduce the minimum amount of seized items required to prosecute a case from the equivalent of $50,000 to $10,000.

The reform was one the business sector’s main requests for the administration of President Luis Guillermo Solís. Business owners had lobbied Solís to ammend a 2012 change in Costa Rica’s Tax Administration Law that increased from $5,000 to $50,000 the minimum amount of seized contraband required for judicial authorities to prosecute a case.

“That change likely caused many crimes to go unpunished and it boosted smuggling,” said Francisco Llobet, president of the Costa Rican Chamber of Commerce.

Ministry officials announced the bill on Monday evening, following a meeting with representatives of the Inter-American Development Bank.

“The proposal aims to increase tax revenue by 1 percent of the country’s gross domestic product,” Finance Vice Minister Fernando Rodríguez said at a press conference.

The draft bill proposes increasing penalties from 3 to 10 years in prison for anyone caught smuggling medicines for human and animal consumption. It also seeks up to 15 years in prison for smugglers who use hidden compartments or false bottoms in vehicles.

The bill proposes a $500 fine for anyone caught lying or providing incomplete information on customs declarations for imported products.

“This is a simple but innovative proposal. We know it will be widely accepted at the Assembly, and we hope it can be approved quickly,” Rodríguez said.

Liquor, beer and cigarettes are the three most common items that smugglers transport across the border. Fiscal Control Police last year confiscated 123,072 bottles of beer, 36,464 bottles of whisky and more than 21 million cigarettes. An estimated 22 percent of alcohol sold in Costa Rica is contraband, according to a 2013 Euromonitor report.

So what happens to all that booze seized by authorities?

It’s sold at public auction. Those auctions are announced in the official government newspaper, La Gaceta, under the heading “Contratación Administrativa.”

Contact L. Arias at

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Troy Rose

LOL this is hilarious…Costa Rica charges so much duty fees and taxes that everything is twice the price then in USA or other countries….The Costa Rica Government makes over a hundred percent plus sales tax for anything entering the country and they make a huge profit for exports to where it is not profitable for anybody to export nothing. The only thing saving small business is the smuggling in of contraband items because they are the items that allow the small stores to make enough currency/profit to keep operating. Also it does not take a economic genius to understand that it not only allows the businesses to operate but also allows the consumer better pricing of merchandise. It is probably the only thing that improves the economic fabric in Costa Rica. Oh so now they want to make it tougher and crack down on smuggling…Lets look at this a little in depth. The more they eliminate smuggling, the more stores go out of business and in return because of supply and demand it results in even higher prices to the consumer. When are the people in Costa Rica going to wake up and realize that its their own government that is keeping them oppressed? The government makes all the money as the product comes into the country and could care less about its people. What makes Central America “a developing country”? I will answer that really easy. Until the people are allowed to import goods into the country without duty fees so that they can profit and make money which circulates in the county thus improving the economy and lives of the people, the country will always be a “developing 3rd world country”. USA citizens can purchase anything they want from all over the world and are not charged high duty fees and taxes. It is one of the fabrics that keeps the US economy better then most of the world. Also prices on everything in Costa Rica, other then local produce are more than double in price then in USA. Wages people make at their jobs here in CR are about a 1/10 what people make in USA. Hows that for Pura Vida? Yeah that’s right….There is no Pura Vida in Costa RIca…Only lies and oppression of the people and a huge amount of ignorant, stupid and greedy people running the Government..

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