Authorities in Costa Rica have warned that Jamaicans found guilty of business marriages could face lengthy prison sentences.
Such marriages, or marriages of convenience, occur when foreigners pay Costa Ricans to become their spouse in order to gain legal residency in the country.
According to the Costa Rican authorities, “Many foreigners enter into a marriage of convenience for the sole purpose of obtaining their residency and legal status without ever meeting or knowing their spouse.”
All parties to be imprisoned
The punishment is three to six years in prison for the parties to the marriage, as well as the lawyers and notaries who willingly or unwillingly take part in such unions.
Business marriages are reportedly common in Costa Rica, with some notaries and lawyers allegedly paying persons to offer their signature and identification on a marriage certificate without ever meeting their intended spouse.
The Costa Rican authorities say the new measure is targeted at organised gangs, such as those from Jamaica, that strengthen their ranks with recruits from their homeland.
At least four suspected Jamaican gangsters now in police custody are married to Costa Ricans and obtained their legal residency by way of business marriages.
Jamaican, Chinese, Colombian, Cuban and Dominican nationals make up the largest group of persons in Costa Rica to legalise their residency through marriage.
In the meantime, Costa Rican officials have explained that, effective yesterday, Jamaicans applying for visas to visit that country will have their documents sent to San José for a decision to be made and the visa issued.
Before yesterday, Costa Rican visas were issued at the country’s honorary consulate in Kingston.
Costa Rica has been implementing several new measures to crack down on Jamaican gangsters blamed for the upsurge in violent crime in that country