Need Help in Costa Rica - Bike impounded

Discussion in 'Latin America' started by krl, Apr 25, 2015.

  1. krl

    krl semi noob

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    My son has had his bike impounded at the Penas Blancas border crossing on his way north into Nicaragua. Its now a bureaucratic nightmare trying to get it back from authorities. Going through the proper channels has taken Junior from Penas B to San Jose and back after meeting with the Ministerio de Hacienda (customs) people in SJ who made phone calls to the border and supposedly made arrangements to release the bike. It all fell apart back at the border as numerous people wanted money but could not guarantee the release of the bike from the impound. Anybody have any idea's or does somebody know the right people to talk to in CR to resolve this issue???

    Junior entered CR from Nic and exited into Panama a few weeks later. On his return to CR the border people supposedly did not reinstate the TVP as being active and when he got to Penas Blanca they seized the bike saying the bike was in a "suspended" state and he would now have to pay the import tax before he could get it back. He is willing to do that but it seems everybody wants money without a promise to deliver the bike back to him. He thought he was going through the proper channels but his gut is telling him that this is all bribe money that is being requested. We are talking upwards of $2-3000. We are getting to the point of simply walking away. The bike is only worth about $4000. Any ideas or suggestion or contacts in CR would be useful. Thanks in advance for your help.
    #1
  2. bananaman

    bananaman transcontimental

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    $3,000? US dollars?

    It sounds like you're dealing with serious corruption. Pay somebody at the border $50 and get the fuck out.

    Or contact the Canadian embassy.
    #2
  3. krl

    krl semi noob

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    They were asking $500 US to let him go just prior to impounding the bike. In hindsight, that was cheap. Now he is looking at multiples of that. He has contacted the CDN Embassy, they told him they couldn't help him. I contacted the CR Embassy in Canada, they sent me to the Ministerio de Hacienda, which he did go to but obviously no luck in resolving. He has contacted a lawyer but this will take a few months to sort through and about $1000 plus plus plus. I told him to stop back in at the impound place and start to grease the wheels of CR justice. I didn't think CR was this bad for corruption. Live and learn.
    #3
  4. BobinBahia

    BobinBahia Lifelong M.I.A.

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    Amazing story. I lived for 5 years in Costa Rica, but that was 40+ years ago Things have changed! But a long shot that once worked for me might be helpful: write an article in "The Tico Times", the English language paper, denouncing his treatment.

    If it were me, I'd go back to the border, check into a nearby hotel, slowly make friends with Aduana (customs) people, get to know them. Although the issue is well known and in the hands of the top dog (most likely why the bite is so high) they will see he's a "good guy", should eventually get tired of seeing him, and someone will offer to get the bike out for a fee. To be paid only once it is in Nica territory, of course.

    The only other way I can think of is find a mover and shaker in San Jose who can make the phone call- but it's hard to locate the right guy.

    Good luck!
    #4
  5. westnash

    westnash Long timer

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    Don't write an article, smile and buy some drinks and don't show big $$$$ but be prepared with small amounts. Was it truly the mistake of customs at entry, if so try and prove that and keep a low profile and maybe a CR on Adv Rider can help him.
    #5
  6. bananaman

    bananaman transcontimental

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    "Nobody, not even the baby Jesus, cares about your bike more than you." -Lone Rider

    Border crossings are a total fucking hastle. And in the end, it's up to the rider to verify that all the paperwork is in order.

    From time to time there have been epic threads on this. There was that guy in Peru, who crashed, and over stayed his TVIP. There have been tons of stories of guys who've left Mexico without canceling their TVIP and then spent years trying to get resolution.

    This is the first I've heard of trouble in Costa Rica.

    In Europe, you can drive freely between countries. In the US, you can drive freely between States. Wouldn't it be nice if there was a treaty or agreement that properly registered vehicles could travel freely between Central America countries? This is the kind of thing Canada could start. Everyone loves Canadians. And in this case... you'll probably need a treaty between Canada and Costa Rica.
    #6
  7. krl

    krl semi noob

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    "This is the first I've heard of trouble in Costa Rica" I agree, this is a RARE event for CR.........it took me a lot of searching to find a similar case, which happened back in 2011 and it got resolved in 2 days.

    "Border crossings are a total fucking hastle" Again, very true, however my son has completed two major trips, one in SE Asia and recently in SA (no bike) on these backpacking trips. I am guessing he has crossed at least 30 borders on these trips and knows how to treat these people and respect their rules even tho they may seem archaic by NA standards. On this trip he has crossed every border there is to cross getting to this point from Canada.

    "you'll probably need a treaty between Canada and Costa Rica." HA! Thanks for the humour........although there may be an element of truth in there.

    "Was it truly the mistake of customs at entry" "And in the end, it's up to the rider to verify that all the paperwork is in order" Gov't's never admit fault, especially if there is a hint of tax money to collect, especially in countries like this. He pleaded his case at the M de Hacienda in SJ.......thought he had actually gotten somewhere with them.......but it seemed to fall apart back at the border. I believe someone told him to write a letter admitting "fault" which he was prepared to do, however the M de H people did not ask him for such a letter when he was there.

    "find a mover and shaker in San Jose" Yes, I was hoping that we would find such a person on ADV or at least a local Tico that could give some advice.

    "and someone will offer to get the bike out for a fee" He is going to start with the "impound" guys to see if he can actually "take possession" of his bike. Then he will proceed to the border to "buy some more friends".

    IMO, as a father, my son is NOT in a foreign jail, he NOT in a hospital or even physically injured in any way, he is NOT being held for ransom.......well, not technically anyway:) He is driving a 2013 KLR 650 with 30K on it, being held together with zip ties and duck tape, so the net value is insignificant.....except to a young man that wants to finish his first motorcycle trip!!

    Thanks to all that have offered their comments and advice...we appreciate your help!! Will let you know how this turns out.
    #7
  8. TeeVee

    TeeVee His mudda was a mudda!

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    shit like this makes me wanna wish nothing but slow agonizingly painful deaths upon the perpetrators of this kind of bullshit.

    tell junior to try and contact local media. maybe, just maybe, the morons in charge will think twice about screwing over a tourist, since a huge percentage of CR's gdp is based on tourist dollars.
    #8
  9. westnash

    westnash Long timer

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    I think I would try and find out why your Embassy in CR can't or won't help. Not like they are that busy!
    #9
  10. whizzerwheel

    whizzerwheel Easily distracted Supporter

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    This is exactly what those embassy nerds should be helping with...I would focus on that channel.
    #10
  11. Tricepilot

    Tricepilot Bailando Con Las Estrellas Super Moderator Super Supporter

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    Get out your GoPro and make it known to the officious twits that you're making a documentary of their "service" and that they will become well known.
    #11
  12. krl

    krl semi noob

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    Gentlemen,
    Well, it was a semi productive day. I have now sent out 15 or so emails, mostly to various people at the Customs department. Late last week I emailed the CR Embassy in Ottawa and she returned about 16 pages of contact information for people mostly at Customs. Its all in Spanish so between google translate and common sense, I picked out the contacts I felt were applicable to this situation, and few that might be high up enough to rattle some cages down there. Its kind of like throwing crap at the wall and hoping something sticks. In the last 3 hrs I have actually received 4 responses ranging in usefulness from "email the customs call center" to "here are the names and phone numbers of the top people at the border". I thought the last one was very productive as there were no less than 6 different people CC'ed on the one email, however after skyping with Junior he told me that those are all the people that he has been dealing with at the PB border, the same ones who have their hands out with no commitments of resolution. There is one response where the guy has offered to look at the problem and has started by asking the right questions, so there is a sliver of hope here.
    I also sent an email to our Canadian Embassy in CR and copied my contact at the CR Embassy in Ottawa, hoping to stir some action. Junior is going to visit the Embassy himself tomorrow as well as going to see the guy from the Customs department. I have also encouraged him to take your guys advice and write a letter to the Tico Times and any other newspaper he can find down there. You just never know when you might hit a nerve on somebody in a position to resolve this problem. I posted a comment in the TTimes under the article that mentioned that the Tourist Minister had just been stripped of his office. Looks like a whole bunch of turmoil at the top levels of govt down there.
    Junior made his way back to SJ today and stopped off at both the border and the impound lot to make some friends. He was unsuccessful on both fronts but the impound guys let him take some of his personal stuff (no charge). One of them mentioned that he was a "businessman" and might like to buy the bike from him. Junior told him $2k US and it was his. The guy suggested that was too much, so Junior figured that this guy would eventually be able to buy it at the customs disposal auction much cheaper. Disappointing. The border guys did take his "at fault" letter, for what purpose, I am not sure.

    We are taking your advice and focusing on motivating our Cdn Embassy and the CR Embassy to take some action. I am sure they could sort this relatively small problem out with only a couple of phone calls to the right people.

    Tricepilot....funny you should mention that as Junior did have his GoPro out to take a couple of pics of his bike. He said the border guys all turned their backs to him when they saw what he was doing and then demanded that he put it away.

    Thanks for all the idea's guys. Something is going to work, its a matter of patience and perseverance.......hopefully.
    #12
  13. pepelopez

    pepelopez Been here awhile

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    Well, sounds like you landed in shit, and embassies are not going to help any. he needs to get a lawyer, in san jose, and get this worked out, nothing is going to happen at the border, so get the lawyer, have him do all the talking, i have a few i use, everybody living in latin america has a few..he can go to jail for taking pictures, so be careful, only licensed photographers can take pictures. remember this is a 3rd world shit hole. and import tax is about $1400 for a 09 KLR, good luck,
    #13
  14. ApexJeff

    ApexJeff Been here awhile

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    Find the moto, take a gas can with you, light a match, and say adios, at least you can leave with a smile
    #14
  15. krl

    krl semi noob

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    Yes, we are in deep. Using a lawyer was our last option based on the premise that we would still have to pay ALL the fee's, taxes, fines, plus pay 1000 - 1500 to a lawyer. Am I making the right assumptions of our circumstances? He spoke with a law office today and they requested $150 to look at his paperwork to see if they could help him. Alonso Dobles Navarro from SJ.
    Thanks for the advice on the pic's. No use inflaming an already touchy situation..........didn't realize it is viewed as such.
    The 1400 is consistent with what he was told......by whom, I am not sure.
    So far you are right about the embassy....however I will continue to request some sort of service until they get tired of returning my emails. This is an easy fix, if you know the right person to talk to.
    #15
  16. krl

    krl semi noob

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    He stopped at the impound lot and was given a couple of cardboard boxes to throw his personal stuff into and then back onto the bus for the trip into SJ late last night. His quote from his email to me this AM "walking a couple of km to my hostel in downtown SJ at night, carrying two boxes of stuff from the bike, plus my massive bike bag on my back along with my backpack while telling male hookers to piss off about did it for me last night".
    He is reaching the point of dejection. I will not tell him about the gas can idea but the notion of abandoning the bike is creeping closer.
    #16
  17. Tricepilot

    Tricepilot Bailando Con Las Estrellas Super Moderator Super Supporter

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    Their reaction to the GoPro tells all
    #17
  18. GuateRider

    GuateRider Long timer

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    In the US not only the use of cameras but even the use of cellphones in custom and immigration areas is forbidden :nono
    What does this tell us ?

    Hope Junior get his bike back !
    #18
  19. krl

    krl semi noob

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    Thanks GuateRider.........taking a pic of a bike seems harmless, but each country has it's own rules once you enter their "restricted" zones.
    #19
  20. TeeVee

    TeeVee His mudda was a mudda!

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    i have little hope in cases like this.

    best thing to do is take your revenge and publicize this thing to no end. is the world really interested in the loss of one moto? no. but even butt-munch govts like CR sometimes react to negative publicity.

    pura vida? ha! pura mierda!
    #20