San Jos, Costa Rica: Costa Rican police smashed on Wednesday a drug ring linked to the Italian mafia that smuggled cocaine hidden in shipments of vegetables to the United States and Europe, prosecutors said.
Police and prosecutors raided nine locations that resulted in two Cubans and five Costa Ricans being arrested, after close cooperation with Italian authorities.
"According to joint research by the Costa Rican, Italian and US authorities, the group is linked to the 'Ndrangheta, a mafia organization originally from the Italian region of Calabria that operates throughout Europe," said Jorge Chavarria, Costa Rica's attorney general.
Prosecutors said the cocaine was sent to countries, including the US, Belgium and the Netherlands, hidden between the insides of cardboard boxes containing cassava and pineapples from Costa Rica.
In the United States, the smugglers' contact was an Italian named Gregorio Gigliotti, who was linked to the mafia group and was arrested on May 8 in New York for his alleged involvement in drug trafficking.
The Costa Rican trafficking ring is tied to the seizure by police of large amounts of cocaine in the United States and Europe, including one of 3,530 kilos in Rotterdam, Netherlands, in November 2014.
Chavarria said that since early this year Costa Rica had worked closely with Italian prosecutors, who provided valuable information to identify the local organization.
"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," he told a press conference.