John Hull, an American farmer who allegedly used his Costa Rica ranch to assist the Nicaraguan Contras, was arrested on suspicion of spying for the CIA and of arms and drug smuggling, officials said Friday.
Hull was picked up at his ranch in the northern province of San Carlos on Thursday and taken to San Jose, the capital, for questioning.
The Indiana native, who has lived in Costa Rica for 20 years, openly supported the Contras and has said that, in the past, he let the rebels use his property, which stretches along the Nicaraguan border, but denied receiving U.S. support.
However, information uncovered by the Iran-Contra investigation supported the allegation that he acted as an arms conduit and worked under orders of the CIA. Hull later acknowledged that he did indeed receive thousands of dollars a year from the CIA to provide what he called “security,” but insisted he had done nothing illegal.
Costa Rican authorities said Friday they began investigating Hull last year after a convicted Colombian drug trafficker, George Morales, accused him of links with arms and drugs trafficking and of spying for the Contras.
Morales, serving a 16-year prison term in the United States for drug trafficking, told a U.S. Senate committee last April that he had supplied arms to the Nicaraguan rebels based in Costa Rica and carried drugs back to the United States. He also said that he used landing strips on or adjacent to Hull’s ranch.
A source in Costa Rica’s Office of Judicial Investigations, which is handling the case, said authorities had not decided whether to release Hull or send him to the prison in San Sebastian pending the outcome of the investigation.
The U.S. Embassy refused to confirm or deny the arrest.
Last month, Hull met with F. Andy Messing, who heads the conservative National Defense Foundation in Washington, and California Rep. David Dreier (R-La Verne) during the pair’s fact-finding trip to Central America.
Messing said Friday that Hull assured them he had stopped assisting the rebels when the Iran-Contra case broke.