A joint operation by officials from three government agencies on Tuesday resulted in the confiscation of 10,687 contraband cigarettes, the Public Security Ministry reported.
Health Ministry officials and officers from the National Police’s Intelligence Department and Fiscal Control Police raided five businesses in downtown San José after several weeks of investigation. Officers seized cigarettes where business owners lacked customs documentation and when cigarette packs did not meet labeling standards set by Costa Rica’s Anti-Smoking Law that entered into force in 2012. Provisions of the law include mandatory anti-smoking messages and graphic pictures on cigarette packs.
The Health Ministry also ordered one business closed for lacking permits.
The raids included bars, restaurants and other businesses near San José’s Central Park.
Increased contraband has prompted Finance Ministry officials to propose a bill that would impose severe sanctions for product smuggling into Costa Rica. Last year alone, Fiscal Control Police confiscated more than 21 million cigarettes.
The draft bill, which will be presented to the Legislative Assembly in coming days, 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.