San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Arms trafficking

Police raid shops, Public Security Ministry offices in gunrunning investigation

Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) on Tuesday raided 12 locations — including some Public Security Ministry units — as part of an ongoing gunrunning investigation allegedly connected to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), according to statements from the OIJ and the ministry. There were no arrests.

Panamanian authorities alerted OIJ agents that AR-15 assault rifles and other guns that appear to have been legally imported into Costa Rica were showing up on the streets of Panama, where the weapons have been illegal for important and sale since 2012, according the OIJ. Authorities did not specify the number of weapons in question.

The ministry’s General Armament Administration and the Private Security Services Administration were among the locations searched by the OIJ, whose agents were looking for gun ownership records, among other evidence. The ministry released a statement Tuesday saying it is cooperating with the investigation. Along with the Public Security Ministry units, OIJ officers raided residences, gun stores and security companies.

One of the businesses raided Tuesday was Grupo Chiribogo, the same company targeted in an Oct. 31, 2013 raid by the OIJ that prompted the arrest of five Colombians and a Nicaraguan. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration provided intelligence that tipped off local authorities to the smuggling ring with alleged ties to the FARC.

The OIJ confiscated 27 rifles, seven pistols, one revolver and a silencer in the 2013 raid. Authorities said that the gunrunners removed serial numbers and could have made other modifications. Agents also seized 492 kilograms of cocaine during one of the raids, which took place in capital neighborhoods of Sabana Sur, Curridabat and Barrio Escalante over a year ago.

Other locations in Tuesday’s raids were Martin’s Restaurant, 506 Tactical Store, Geo International Training Academy, S.I.A.S.A. Álvarez International Security, SC Seguridad Morgan, S.A., Servicios Especiales de Protección y Seguridad Intelligent, S.A., and the homes of Juan Carlos Martín Víquez and Javier Aguirre Herrera, OIJ press spokeswoman Mónica Álvarez told The Tico Times in a telephone interview.

According to the Private Security Services Administration, only 443 of the 1,560 registered private security companies — 28 percent — are not compliant with the digital registry for tracking weapons and reporting new hires, ControlPas, as of Jan. 31.

The number of guns imported legally to Costa Rica has decreased, according to a statement from the General Armament Administration. During 2014, 4,168 firearms were imported, compared to 4,071 in 2013 and 5,799 in 2012.

No charges have been filed. The investigation is ongoing.

Contact Zach Dyer at zdyer@ticotimes.net

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