Investigators seek link to officials in weapons probe

Organized crime prosecutors and judicial investigators conducted 12 searches Tuesday including three at offices of the Ministerio de Seguridad. They were seeking evidence of a major conspiracy involving illegal arms sales.

Prosecutors are trying to determine if public officials were involved.

Among the locations searched was the  Departamento de Control de Armas y Explosivos, which provides permits to import firearms and also individual permits to have one. A related agency that licenses private security firms also was searched.

Investigators launched the probe when firearms listed for Costa Rican security firms began showing up in the hands of crooks, mainly in Panamá.

Investigators said that the firm Armería Martín Armar S.A. occupies a key role in the conspiracy. The firm applied for and obtained many permits to import weapons from counties such as Turkey, the Czech Republic and the United States.

The paperwork shows that the weapons were sold to private security firms, but agents said these are fake transactions. The weapons, instead, went to other buyers, mainly outside of Costa Rica.

Prosecutors said that the serial numbers of the weapons also were erased.

Export of the weapons was illegal, investigators said. In 2012 and 2013 some 31 Costa Rican-registered firearms were confiscated by law enforcement in Panamá from citizens there, said prosecutors. Panamá prohibited the importation of weapons in 2012.

In a Costa Rican drug case, police confiscated 490 kilos of cocaine and 37 firearms as they arrested five persons. Prosecutors accuse the Armería Martín Armar S.A. firm of supplying the weapons.

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