Thursday, November 23, 2006

Drug "submarine" off Costa Rica was disguised boat

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (Reuters) - A vessel carrying 3.5 tonnes of cocaine that was seized by the U.S. Coast Guard off Costa Rica last week was not a submarine as first thought but a speedboat camouflaged to avoid detection, Costa Rican officials said on Wednesday.

The 45-foot (14-metre) craft was "a cigarette boat", a sleek, fast vessel typically used by drug traffickers, that had an ocean-colored fiberglass covering intended as camouflage, said Costa Rican coast guard commander Rodrigo Peralta.

The Costa Rican coast guard had told reporters on Sunday the craft, found near the remote Coco Island, was a makeshift submarine that traveled 6 feet under the surface.

The boat rode low in the water because of the weight of the cocaine but did not actually submerge, said Peralta. It had traveled from Colombia and was on its way to the United States with the cocaine.

"It was covered with lead lamination to conceal it from radar," said Peralta.

Tubes protruding from the boat, which initially gave officials the impression it was a submarine, turned out to be exhaust pipes.

Two Colombians, a Guatemalan and a Sri Lankan were arrested aboard the craft and taken along with the cocaine to the United States, Costa Rican officials said.

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