Dozens Busted For Migrant Smuggling

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The bust came as President of Costa Rica Carlos Alvarado Quesada, addressed the annual gathering in New York City for the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on September 21, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Mary Altaffer-Pool/Getty Images)

SAN JOSE/PANAMA CITY, Weds. Sept 21 (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)