San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Intelligence Info Group Poised to Boot Costa Rica

Costa Rica is facing expulsion from an international intelligence-sharing organization if it doesn’t pass an anti-terrorism law.

According to officials, the Egmont Group, created during G8 meetings in 1995, is threatening to expel the country by the end of May if it doesn’t pass a law defining terrorism as a crime, among other measures.

The G8 includes the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United Kingdom.

Egmont is an informal body of 108 member governments that share financial intelligence, its Web site states. Through its  Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs), lawenforcement agencies share information that allows them to investigate and prosecute financial crimes, such as money laundering and terrorist finance.

Costa Rica has also received warnings from the United Nations Security Council that it is not complying with its obligations as a signatory to the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, adopted by the General Assembly in 1999, said Costa Rican Drug Institute (ICD) Director Mauricio Boraschi. The primary violations surround the fact the country has no laws expressly criminalizing terrorism or its financing.

The institute houses this country’s FIU and Boraschi said exclusion from Egmont, which the country joined in 1999, would severely damage law enforcement’s capacity to investigate and prosecute financial crimes.

“We’ll end up isolated from the world and without access to this valuable, trustworthy source of information,” he said.

The terrorism finance issue flared up in March when Tico couple Francisco Gutiérrez and Cruz Prado’s house was raided. During the operation, $480,000 in money tied to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was found in a safe. FARC is officially labeled a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, Colombia and the U.N.

Much to the chagrin of these entities, Chief Prosecutor Francisco Dall’Anese announced the couple would not be prosecuted because the country doesn’t have any laws governing guerrilla or terrorist financing.

Various versions of an anti-terrorism bill have sat in the Legislative Assembly since 2001 with little or no action taken on them, Boraschi said.

The administration of Oscar Arias is trying to change that.His office resubmitted the bill from the legislative archive to the assembly this week and various administration officials are pushing to get it passed. The executive branch has only until April 30 to submit bills.

But as of Thursday, the terrorism bill had not been placed on the Legislative Assembly’s debate agenda.

Boraschi said the country also needs to improve its extradition treaties with other nations, including Colombia.

“It’s not just a national battle against drug trafficking, money laundering and terrorism,” he said. “It’s an international battle, and if we don’t achieve this level of cooperation, it’s going to make the work of justice that much harder. We really need a global extradition treaty.”

The nation’s Constitution expressly forbids the extradition of Costa Rican nationals.

Egmont officials could not be reached for comment.

Crime Spending BillPasses

Lawmakers this week passed a $165 million supplemental appropriations bill that provides $28.4 million of additional funds to fight bad guys.

According to a summary provided by the National Liberation Party (PLN), the cash will fund an additional 559 Judicial Investigation Police positions, 152 prosecutor staff, 66 judge and assistant positions and 50 public defenders.

The Justice Ministry will also get $3.9 million to construct a new prison unit to house up to 600 inmates – only those who are in preventive prison awaiting their trials.

The increase in judge funding will finance a new “justice express” pilot program, a 24-hour court to deliver verdicts within 48 hours on minor cases and cases involving suspects caught redhanded by police.


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