Monday, February 27, 2012

Costa Rica Authorities Ignore Private Aircraft Inspection

Traveling in a private jet is the ultimate. And it has is perks, at least when it comes to dealing with Costa Rica's immigration and customs on arrival and departure.

Dozens of international flights arrive monthly at Costa Rica's international airports - San José and Liberia - by way of private jets and mostly without any type of review or inspection of the inside of the aircraft.

This situation makes controls vulnerable, especially for the Policía de Control de Drogas (PCD) - Drug Control Police. Another concerned body is the Policía Aeroportuaria (Airport Police), who director, Glen Pacheco, admitted to Al Dia that inspections are performed at "random".

In fact, the Al Dia reports that in checking the control forms, "none showed any inspection by any government body".

The protocol for the inspection of private international aircraft is with the Dirección General de Aviación Civil (Directorate General of Civil Aviation), Aduanas (Customs), al Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería (Ministry of Agriculture), the PCD, the Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad Nacional (DIS) -Directorate of Intelligence and Security -and the Policía Aeroportuaria.

Pacheco said that this method of "interagency crossover" hits at the different mechanisms and strategies used by criminals.

However, according to the current regulations, is no authority arrives within 30 minutes of landing, the aircraft can proceed to a hangar.

The head of the PCD - whose name was kept hidden for security reasons - said "if we board a plane is because there is some element that indicates a need for a physical inspection. If it is a routine flight, we know the people and there are no elements of suspicion, the review is simply an hello and goodbye".

Passengers on private aircraft are handled by ground services companies (ground handlers) who take them through the terminal and speed through the immigration/customs checks.

Immigration and customs officials verify the identity of the passengers and the contents of the suitcases, according to Pacecho, who added that they have never found anyone hidden in the jets to avoid customs and immigration controls. However, Pacheco, admitted it could happen.

Glen Pacheco, also admits that sometimes no one (not one authority) arrives to meet the private jet, who believes that there should be a mechanism where the various authorities work together.

The official further stressed that it was only last December that the airport police intensified inspections and that so far this year they have made 23. (No numbers on the arrivals of private jets were available.)

For their part, the head of Phytosanitary Control, said that the department does not have the necessary staff to inspect the jets for items like carrying fruits and animals without permits.

Nelson Morera said "today, in all honesty, it is something that is not done".

When a private jet arrives at the Juan Santamaria (San José) airport (we assume the same is true at the Liberia airport) ground handlers meet the plane, take the passengers through customs and immigration and escort them out through the main terminal doors. On departure the handlers meet and greet the passengers and escort them to the aircraft after passing routine controls.

The process can take between 5 and 10 minutes from the time the passengers step off the aircraft.

For the aircraft, depending on the particularity of the passenger, it will be parked until the departure or may leave.

In the past, passengers getting off or boarding a private plane in San José used the "base B" checkpoint. However, now, all must enter and leave by way of the main terminal.

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