Costa Rica Security Threats

Information about security threats from Costa Rica’s black market. Intelligence data and security information collected from government agencies, news articles and other public data sources.

Regulators in Costa Rica received 302 reports of suspicious financial transactions in 2012, according to the Money Laundering Unit of the Judicial Investigation Organization.

As of April 2013, the unit was in the process of actively investigating 16 major cases of money laundering involving casinos, sportsbooks and small-scale businesses such as carwashes.

(Illegal gambling statistics.)

Authorities believe that most of the money that is laundered in Costa Rica originates from Mexico. After the money is washed through legitimate businesses in Costa Rica, the money then is wired to banks in Panama.

Source: “Casinos, sportsbooks, even bakeries investigated for money laundering,” Inside Costa Rica, April 15, 2013.

From 2010 to February 2013, security officials in Costa Rica seized 22 tons of cocaine and 377,000 doses of crack cocaine.

Officials also destroyed almost 4 million marijuana plants within the country, and seized $10.5 Million in cash from drug trafficking organizations.

(More intelligence about illicit cash transactions. )

Source:  Mario Garita, “Communities, police fight narco-trafficking,” Inside Costa Rica, March 28, 2013.

According to industry officials, there are around 300,000 private security guards working in the Central America region. The number of private guards in the region are higher than the number of police officers in the region. The rise in security guards to attributed to fears of kidnap for ransom activities.

In Guatemala, there are 24,000 police officers in the country. The number of security guards is estimated to be around 100,000.

In Costa Rica and Honduras, there are twice as many security guards as police officers in each country.

The private security guard industry in the region is growing at 8 percent annually.

Source:  AFP, “Private security industry grows as organized crime spreads through Central America,” Tico Times, October 21, 2012.


The legitimate price of a pack of cigarettes in Costa Rica is $2.50 (1,300 Colons).

The price of purchase a pack of cigarettes on the black market in Costa Rica is reported to be $0.98 (500 Colons).

(What is the black market? Learn more here.)

Source:  “Black Market Cigarettes Proliferate in San Jose,” InsideCostaRica, February 10, 2012.

Between 2000 and 2008,$4.47 Billion was illegally laundered each year through tax evasion, corruption and other types of crimes in Costa Rica.  The amount laundered was equal to roughly one-fifth of the country’s GDP during that same time period.

(What is money laundering? Find more statistics here.)

Source: Alex Leff, “Fear and money laundering in Costa Rica,” GlobalPost, December 27, 2011.

Up to 10 percent of all cigarettes sold in Costa Rica are believed to have been smuggled into the country.

In 2010, around 6 million illegal cigarettes were seized.

Source: “Proposed Tobacco Tax Triggers Fear Of Increased Cigarette Smuggling,” Inside Costa Rica, October 10, 2011.

There are over 250 Internet sports books companies registered in Costa Rica. The gambling sites employs 10,000 people and handles $12 Billion a year in sporting bets. The industry loosely regulated.

(See all illegal gambling statistics and information.)

Source: “2011 International Narcotics Control Strategy:Volume II: Money Laundering and Financial Crimes, Costa Rica,” United States Department of State, March 3, 2011.

All Costa Rica Intelligence.

In 2002, 2,955 kilos of cocaine was seized in Costa Rica by security forces.

In 2007, more than 32,000 kilos of cocaine was seized in Costa Rica.

(Cocaine facts and statistics.)

Source:  Pete Thomas, “Is Costa Rica becoming a new major theater for drug traffickers?,” Outposts, Los Angeles Times, April 21, 2009.

Costa Rica’s Interior Ministry reported that nearly 93 tons of cocaine was seized in the country between 2006 and 2009, nearly twice the amount that was seized in the country in the previous decade. The increase in cocaine trafficking is believed to be caused from drug cartels in Mexico increasingly picking up cocaine shipped from South America in Costa Rica.

(Additional cocaine facts and statistics.)

Source:  Leslie Josephs, “Costa Rica latest stop for Mexican drug gangs,” Reuters, December 14, 2009.

The prostitution industry in Costa Rico has between 10,000 to 20,000 people working as prostitutes, according to available research.

Between 25,000 to 50,000 people visit the country each year as sex tourists, with 80 percent of the sex tourists being American citizens.

(Prostitution prices around the world.)

Source:  Tim Rogers, “Costa Rica draws sex trade,” Miami Herald, October 13, 2009.