San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Prosecution Brings First Evidence in Villalobos Trial

Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) investigators brought forth the first evidence in the Osvaldo Villalobos trial this week: a box load of documents seized in the investigations documenting “The Brothers” investment operation between 1996-2002.

The Brothers was a renowned investment program run out of the same office where Osvaldo Villalobos had a currencyexchange business called Ofinter S.A..

Osvaldo, accused of money-laundering, illegal financial intermediation and fraud, has said he had nothing to do with The Brothers investment operation, and that it was his fugitive brother Luis Enrique Villalobos who ran the operation.

Using a PowerPoint projector screen, OIJ investigators scrolled through pages of deposits and withdrawals of multimillion-dollar foreign bank accounts in which the Villalobos brothers or others related to the brothers were authorized users. The prosecution tried to show how funds were allegedly moved from Osvaldo’s moneyexchange business Ofinter’s account in a U.S. bank through other accounts and finally to another account in which both brothers were authorized users. Some $118 million were allegedly moved through the Whitney National Bank. The account was under the name Servicios de Soporte al Turismo, S.A., one of several companies the brothers allegedly had a hand in.

The defense did not get a chance to respond as of Thursday.

Thousands of investors say they lost between thousands and millions of dollars in 2002 when The Brothers and Ofinter shut down and Luis Enrique disappeared, allegedly along with as much as $1 billion (TT, Sept. 24, 2004). He is still wanted by authorities.

After Osvaldo’s trial started last week, judges put proceedings on hold to consider motions from the defense challenging hundreds of investors’ querellas (private lawsuits added to the prosecutor’s criminal case).

The defense alleged claimants incorrectly processed their powers of attorney, so their suits should be dismissed (TT, Feb. 9). However, judges decided Friday to postpone the decision for a later unspecified date so as to collect more evidence throughout the trial, according to defense attorney Federico Campos.

Like last week, only a handful of observers spangled the OIJ auditorium at the trial.

Keith Finger, a retired doctor who lives in Jacó who was an investor with the Brothers, suggested many didn’t come because the trial is in Spanish and many investors are English speakers.


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