San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Villalobos Defense Appeals Alleging Illegal Raids

The defense in the case of businessman Osvaldo Villalobos is alleging that crucial evidence used to convict Villalobos of fraud and illegal financial intermediation was seized illegally in unauthorized raids.

Defense attorney Alexander Ruiz said the first circuit San José Judge Francisco Sánchez who authorized raids on Villalobos’ offices in the eastern suburb of San Pedro and another property in Jacó, on the central Pacific coast, had ordered raids in places that were out of his jurisdiction.

Boxes of documents were seized at the businesses’ offices in San Pedro, much of which ended up being key evidence to convict Villalobos, according to Ruiz.

Villalobos was convicted in May after a long-awaited trial that began in February (TT, May 18). Still at large is his fugitive brother, Luis Enrique Villalobos, the alleged kingpin of the siblings’ San José-based investment scheme known as “The Brothers.” The operation, which shut down in late 2002, attracted hundreds of millions of dollars from mostly foreign investors.

Ruiz is also alleging in the appeal, filed at the end of July, that Villalobos, who is in San Sebastián prison, wasn’t provided a lawyer at a hearing in which investigators were given the green light to examine the alleged illegally seized evidence.

Villalobos is scheduled to be in preventive prison until February of next year, even though the Penal Branch of the Supreme Court (Sala III), which is to see the appeal, is backed up until next May. That means Villalobos’ preventive prison sentence may have to be extended while judges get around to hearing his appeal, though in most cases preventive prison time can be deducted from the jail sentence.

“We have a sentence based on illegal evidence and our client is still in prison,” Ruiz alleged.


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