San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Ex-President Rodríguez Faces New Allegations

Former President Miguel Angel Rodríguez (1998-2002), who has been under investigation for alleged corruption for well over a year and a half, faced new allegations last week when the daily La Nación reported a business controlled by Rodríguez received funds from companies selling reinsurance to the National Insurance Institute (INS).

According to the daily, Inversiones Denisse, a Panamanian company in which Rodríguez was the majority shareholder, received $150,000 from London-based reinsurance company PWS in 1999 and 2000.

PWS had inflated the insurance policies of the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) to create a discretionary fund of $1.6 million, the daily reported.

According to Adam Bragg, a PWS representative, then-INS president Cristóbal Zawadski asked the company to overcharge on the ICE policies to create a fund “to cover training and travel costs.” Bragg said PWS then distributed the funds as Zawadski directed, according to La Nación.

PWS has since denied Bragg’s comments, made in August 2005 – and, when INS sent two officials to London to find out how PWS spent the extra funds, PWS refused to reveal the information, the daily reported. The institute has opened legal proceedings against the company in England in an attempt to force PWS’ hand, according La Nación, and the outgoing British Ambassador to Costa Rica, Georgina Butler, promised INS this week that her government will do whatever possible to help in the investigations.

Mexico-based reinsurance firm Guy Carpenter Reinmex paid $47,465 to Inversiones Denisse in 2001, according to the daily.

Rodríguez told La Nación – whose reporting played a key role in revealing the corruption cases that shook the country in 2004 and put Rodríguez, fellow ex-President Rafael Angel Calderón and other former public officials in preventive detention – that he would not comment on the story.

His lawyer, Rafael Gairaud, said Rodríguez had been unaware of the origin of the payments in question, as he had not been the administrator of the account.

Rodríguez stepped down from his post as Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) in October 2004 to face the corruption allegations against him, and was arrested upon his return to Costa Rica. The nation watched on live TV as he was led off the plane in handcuffs; Rodríguez maintains this treatment was unjustified, since he’d returned to Costa Rica voluntarily.

He is accused of receiving kickbacks from multinational telecommunications firm Alcatel in connection with the company’s contract with ICE.

More than two years after the massive corruption scandals began to become public, and more than a year and a half since Calderón and Rodríguez were arrested in connection with the cases, advances in the investigation have been few and far between of late, according to the daily La República.

The Prosecutor’s Office claims the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) are responsible for the delay, the daily reported.

The organization has missed several deadlines for presenting reports to the Prosecutor’s Office, thereby preventing prosecutors from determining whether enough evidence exists to bring the cases to trial.

Both cases involve alleged kickbacks related to contracts between the Costa Rican government and foreign companies. Chief Prosecutor Francisco Dall’Anese told the daily that Calderón’s case, involving a medical equipment contract between the Social Security System (Caja) and Corporación Fischel, has become more complex and requires further investigation.

Lawyers for both former heads of state told the daily they hope the investigations are concluded as soon as possible.

Juan Marcos Rivero, Calderón’s lawyer, said it’s incomprehensible that his client was deprived of his liberty for a year if authorities had no proof. Both Calderón and Rodríguez served a series of preventive detention orders – with stints at their respective homes and at the penitentiary La Reforma – for approximately one year before being released on bail.

Of the other suspects in the cases, only two remain under house arrest: José Antonio Lobo, the former ICE board member who accused Rodríguez of involvement, and Edgar Valverde, former manager of Alcatel for Costa Rica, according to La República.


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