Tourist under investigation for rape in Nosara leaves Costa Rica

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Translator: Arianna Hernández

“Arrest the rapist! Arrest the rapist!” shouted a group of women and men on Friday, February 24, in front of the Gypset cafeteria, in Nosara.

Around 30 people, mostly women, went to the business to look for Salim Benzeriga, a tourist who was investigated by the Prosecutor’s Office for allegedly raping at least one woman in Nosara. They protested there because it’s his brother’s business, where he also worked.

The Public Ministry confirmed to The Voice of Guanacaste that there has been an open investigation against the man since July of 2022 for the alleged crime of rape, under file 22-001003-0414-PE. Although he has been pointed out for several other alleged rapes in the community, the prosecutor’s office denied having more cases.

“The defendant was investigated on October 25 and doesn’t have precautionary measures. Because the case is in a phase that is private, for now, it isn’t possible to give further details,” said the Public Ministry’s press department via email.

During preliminary inquiries, the accused person is informed that he is under investigation and is given an opportunity to say something or abstain. The Voice requested an explanation from the Public Ministry regarding the lack of precautionary measures, but the institution had not responded by the deadline for this article.

Following several posts on Facebook in which he was accused of having allegedly assaulted other women, Benzeriga asserted: “I would like the people involved to take responsibility. Being insulted and judged by people who are not involved is a very serious crime. It’s very easy to hide behind a computer.”

He further stated, “I see my ex has done her job to put me in more situations than I can handle. If I really am an abuser, why all this debate. Go and get the security camera footage instead of this, ask everyone who saw me with her on my little cloud.”

The Voice tried to contact him directly by calling Gypset Nosara’s phone, but no one answered at the establishment.

On the day of the protest in front of the restaurant, no one was sure where Benzeriga was.

The Voice of Guanacaste confirmed with the Administration of Immigration and Foreign Affairs (Spanish acronym: DGME) that Salim had left Costa Rica one day before the protest, on Thursday, February 23.

Via email, they explained that the tourist was able to leave because there is no precautionary measure against him.

Benzeriga en el 2017

Benzeriga has an Instagram and Facebook account where he promotes photographs of models under the name “Starring Models.” On Instagram he has 50,700 followers and identifies himself as a “designer”. Photo: Salim Benzeriga’s Facebook profile.Photo: Fotografía tomada del perfil de Benzeriga en Facebook.

A “violent” man

On the day of the march, women shouted and held banners that read “a rapist works here” and other messages demanding freedom and justice for women.

Two protesters, who asked not to be identified, told The Voice that Benzeriga was a violent person and that he harassed women through Instagram messages.

“His violence has been getting worse; he started with sexual assaults on the beach, then rape, and now he drugs the victims, beats them and rapes them,” said Britney, the woman who denounced him before the Public Ministry last year in July. 

According to her account, the rape occurred in June, a month after Benzeriga entered the country. Britney is a fictitious name to protect the woman’s identity.

You don’t know the number of girls during these days [prior to the protest] who have said that he asked them out, that he’s very annoying and that he harassed them on Instagram,” another remarked.

Some of the recent reviews on Google about the business of his brother, Karim, indicate that the owners are “predatory.”

Some of the comments about the cafeteria include: “… be careful being a woman and visiting this place! People have to be warned”; “Rude and predatory owners, do not support this business”; and “Never go here. Owners are predators. Tell everyone you know.” 

The call to protest that circulated on Facebook and WhatsApp groups said that there were at least four testimonies of alleged sexual abuse committed by the tourist.

There, comments like this were also unleashed: I recall him following me around during my beach walks, being really imposing. I had to literally take my earphones out and tell him to leave me alone, as I’m listening to something and don’t feel like company (multiple times).

Benzeriga has an Instagram account called Starring Models, a site dedicated to photographs of models. There, he describes himself as an influencer dedicated to cinema and modeling.

One of the messages that circulated on the community’s networks, to which The Voice had access, said that he presented himself as a French television celebrity.

“It seems like an exaggeration after getting to know him for a while,” commented the group’s participants.

Britney said that Benzeriga seemed to be a charming guy. According to her, that makes it hard to feel insecure around him.

He earned my trust immediately. He is very good at manipulating and that’s why he’s so dangerous,” she said.

DGME records between 2020 and 2023 indicate that Benzeriga entered Costa Rica for the first time less than a year ago, in May of 2022.

As a tourist, Benzeriga was allowed to be in the territory for 90 days. According to records of entering and leaving the country, since his first entry, he left on time to comply with the maximum period of stay. He re-entered national territory the same day or two days after his departure.

The last time he entered was November 1, 2022 and he stayed in the country longer than allowed, since he left on February 23. As of March 2, there is no record of him re-entering the country.