Panama and Costa Rica arrest dozens over migrant smuggling network


FILE PHOTO: Migration police detain a person suspected of belonging to an international network for migrant trafficking, in La Cruz, Costa Rica July 30, 2019. Ministry of Public Security/Handout via REUTERS

SAN JOSE/PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - Authorities in Costa Rica and Panama said on Tuesday they detained more than 40 people suspected of operating a cross-country people-trafficking organization by smuggling migrants overland to the United States.

The network handled migrants from Asian and African countries and to a lesser extent people from Cuba, Haiti and Venezuela, according to the Costa Rican security ministry.

Panamanian authorities carried out 35 raids and 21 arrests, while on Costa Rican soil 15 operations were reported in border municipalities and another 21 people were captured.

An investigation that lasted more than a year revealed that the organization charged each migrant $14,000 to $25,000 to take them to the United States, said Costa Rican Security Minister Michael Soto.

In Panama, police agents also confiscated three vehicles and a boat used to transport migrants, the Public Ministry said in a statement.

(Reporting by Alvaro Murillo in San Jose and Elida Moreno in Panama City; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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