QCOSTARICA – Hidden in cases of cassava and pineapple, cocaine was smuggled from Costa Rica to the United and Europe, by a drug ring lined to the Italian mafia.
The Organismo de Investigacion Judicial (OIJ) on Wednesday, in nine simultaneous raids in Heredia (Santa Bárbara and Sarapiquí), Alajuela (Grecia and Pital) and Limón (Guápiles), was able to detain seven people, a Cuban, the alleged leader and six Costa Ricans.
Acording to Jorge Chavarria, Costa Rica’s Attorney General, the seven had links to N’dragheta mafia in Calabria, Italy.
The men were identified by their last names García (Cuban), Montero, Guzman, Velazco, Campos and two Zuniga.
Chavarria said the illegal drugs were shipped to the U.S. and Europe, hidden inside cardboard boxes of the “yuca” and “Piña”.
In the U.S., an Italian named Gregorio Gigliotti, linked to the mafia group was the receiver of the drugs.
In Costa Rica, the group operated through two companies, Comercializadora de Piña and Tropifrut, both consolidated and registered for international trade.
“They had their registered documents, the companies were structured, they may have started with legitimate activity, but eventually came into contact with a criminal group that made them an offer,” said the deputy director of the OIJ, Luis Avila.
Chavarria added that the group did not plant anything, purchasing the product from either producers or intermediaries, then packaged (adding the cocaine) and shipped it.
What authorities do not know the supplier of the drugs. “The merchandise (drugs) were brought into Costa Rica. But we have no details where it came from,” said Chavarria.
The first alert was received last October (2014) by authorities in Costa Rica, when authorities in New York seized 160 packages of cocaine arriving from Limon.
“The Italian “Anti-Mafia” prosecutor a police told us that the N’dragheta had links with some residents of New York,” said Chavarria.
A month later another shipment was confiscated by authorities in Rotterdam. A after that (December), authorities in Philadelphia (U.S.) seized 15 kilograms of cocaine headed to the Fresh Farm Produce Export Corporation, owned by Gregorio Gigliotti.
Gigliotti, who ran a pizzeria in New York, was, along with his son and wife, arrested on May 8.
U.S. prosecutors say the pizzeria was a front for the illicit drug business.
“What we see is the participation of Costa Ricans with Italians and other Europeans to open a route for drugs to Europe but fell in their intent,” said Chavarria.
“We are determined to avoid Costa Rica becoming a permanent bridge to traffic cocaine into Europe through the establishment of front companies and use of agricultural products,” Chavarria said in a press conference.