Coffee exports call for action on container pilfering

Costa Rican coffee exporters have called on the Judicial Investigating Organization to take more aggressive action in finding those responsible for stealing large amounts of coffee on its way out of the country.

Leaders of the Cámara Nacional de Exportadores de Café said that coffee exporters have lost about 1.5 billion colons worth of coffee beans in these thefts over the course of a year. That is about $3 million in stolen coffee.

“For you to do something, what do we need to wait for? Deaths? Illegal goods? Toxic substances? Or what else?” chamber President Eric Thormaehlen rhetorically asked of investigators according to a summary of a press conference Tuesday.

According to a press release from the chamber, the thieves target coffee when it is in large shipping containers on the way to the docks. Thormaehlen said that these thefts are so sophisticated that the containers come to their foreign destinations full of miscellaneous debris with dock workers and exporters none the wiser.

He said this implies that there is a full-fledged criminal organization behind the thefts. “This way of stealing our containers is not beginners, requires an entire organization with logistics, personnel, infrastructure, forklifts, weapons, communications systems and even people who facilitate the movement of trucks,” said Thormaehlen.

A press release said that 18 such containers have been plundered over a period a little longer than a year, which collectively contained 1.5 billion colons worth of coffee. At least one of these containers was pilfered 500 meters from where it was packed, and others have been robbed in transit to the docks.

Chamber employees were not able to confirm how much coffee each container holds.

The release also said that one attempted theft was recently stopped because neighbors noticed it happening and called the police.

Chamber leaders said that the thefts raise the costs of the businesses, but the situation is made worse by the stolen coffee being laundered and resold outside of the tax and legal systems.

A spokesperson from the Judicial Investigating Organization received a request for how the organization plans to respond to the chamber’s renewed requests for an investigation. That spokesperson was not in the office Tuesday and could not pursue the request.

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