San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Trial for former Costa Rican President Rodríguez to begin in February

On the heels of a high level court case that saw a former president sentenced to five years in prison, a second case involving an ex-president is expected to begin Feb. 15.

Miguel Angel Rodríguez, who served in the country´s top job from 1998 to 2002, is accused of receiving between $600,000 and $800,000 in kickbacks from the French telecommunications firm Alcatel.

Rodríguez was serving as secretary general of the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C. when he was accused. He voluntary resigned his post and returned to Costa Rica, where he was greeted at Juan Santamaría International Airport by police, who put him in handcuffs and drove him through San José in a box truck, witnesses said.

His case, which involves a handful of other public officials, will be heard in the Goicoechea tribunals, northwest of San José.

It follows a similar trial involving former President Rafael Angel Calderón, who was arrested in 2004 on charges that he bribed public officials to secure a deal between the Costa Rica Social Security System and a Finnish medical supply company.

Judges of the Goicoechea tribunals sentenced Calderón (1990-1994) on Oct. 5 to five years in prison and ordered him to pay $500,000. Judges convicted him on charges of using his political influence for personal benefit (embezzlement). He plans on appealing the sentence in a higher court and, if unsuccessful, before the Inter-American Human Rights Court in San José.

Former President José María Figueres (1994-1998) was also implicated in the Alcatel scandal, but he has refused to return to Costa Rica from Switzerland, where he has lived since the scandal became public.

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