Anti-drug agent at airport accused of helping cocaine smugglers

Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photo Detained anti-drug agent is led to a vehicle

Anti-drug police and judicial agents took into custody Thursday a 25-year-long security ministry employee at Juan Santamaría airport. They said the man was helping a local drug kingpin move cocaine through the airport and overseas.

The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública said the investigation began last June when an informant told agents about the airport situation. The informant said that an organized smuggling group made up of Costa Ricans and Colombians were being assisted by a security employee to defeat the anti-drug controls. The informant said that the group had its headquarters in San Sebastián, the ministry said.

The man was identified by the last names of Sánchez Espinoza. The Poder Judicial said that he was the head of a shift of workers at the airport.

Raids were conducted Thursday in Heredia at the home of the anti-drug officer and in San Sebastián, the home of a man identified by the last names of Pennant Riti. He was the suspected kingpin and is 51 years old, said the ministry.

The case got a boost Jan. 28 when authorities snagged a man with cocaine at the airport. He was on his way to Guatemala and had a suitcase with a false bottom. In it was more than a kilo of cocaine, agents said. Prosecutors and the Policía de Control de Drogas managed to determine that Sánchez knew the smuggler was carrying cocaine.

The Ministerio de Hacienda reported on another corruption case involving the airport. The ministry said that a customs official was ordered detained recently due to irregularities in granting temporary permits to allow the importation of vehicles.

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