Costa Rican and Honduran authorities busted a transnational drug ring allegedly involving over a dozen police officers from the two countries, raising suspicion that the operation was connected to the recent capture in Costa Rica of one of Honduras' biggest drug traffickers.
On November 23, authorities in Honduras and Costa Rica carried out simultaneous raids against a drug trafficking network known as "The Bigheads" (Los Cabezones), which according to Costa Rican officials is led by a man that goes by the same alias, reported La Prensa. Thirty-six suspects, including ten Costa Rican police officers, were captured during 31 raids in the northern provinces of Guanacaste and Alajuela, reported La Nación.
In Honduras, the Attorney General's Office conducted 10 raids in four cities -- including the capital, Tegucigalpa -- that resulted in the arrest of at least two police officers and one former officer.
According to La Prensa, the operation is "related" to the arrest in Costa Rica of Honduran drug kingpin Wilter Neptalí Blanco Ruíz, which occurred the day before the raids.
Walter Espinoza, the director of Costa Rica's Judicial Investigation Agency (Organismo de Investigación Judicial - OIJ), said that the police officers alerted the drug traffickers to security checkpoints and provided general advice as to how to avoid being detected while smuggling the drugs.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Costa Rica
Once the cocaine shipments reached Costa Rica's northern border, they reportedly passed through Nicaragua before reaching a storage center in Honduras, where the drugs were prepared to be sent to the United States.
InSight Crime Analysis
It is unclear how exactly the bust of the "Bigheads" drug trafficking ring is connected to Blanco Ruíz's capture, if it is at all. But Blanco Ruíz's decision to flee to Costa Rica last month after the US government announced he was under investigation suggests he had contacts in the country that he felt he could rely on to stay safe. At least one news outlet reported that he even planned to use Costa Rica as a "base of operations."
The involvement of both Honduran and Costa Rican police in the drug scheme further points to a potential link to the Honduran kingpin. Blanco Ruíz's Atlantic Cartel is believed to have high-level contacts in the military and police in Honduras. In 2009, a police hit squad reportedly receiving orders from Blanco Ruíz killed the country's anti-drug czar at the time. Several high-ranking police officials, including two former directors of the National Police, were implicated in the plot.