Alcatel Millions Set For ‘Societal Damages’

March 19, 2010

Costa Rica‘s attorney general said last week that French telecom equipment maker Alcatel-Lucent has followed through with a payment of $10 million to settle a corruption case in Costa Rica.

Alcatel deposited the funds on March 9 in payment for “societal damages” – money the attorney general said should be funneled into public programs. This would help pay society back after the French company allegedly paid kickbacks to former President Miguel Angel Rodríguez and other government officials in return for a 2001 contract to provide cellular phone equipment in Costa Rica, according to Attorney General Ana Lorena Brenes.

“We confirm the deposit of money and we’ve sent a note to the head of the Finance Ministry to inform them of the transaction,” Brenes said in a statement issued last Friday.

She added that her office is recommending that government officials spend this money  with “the interest of the collective” in mind.

“We would expect that it is invested in projects that have a direct impact on the population,” she said.

Payment for societal damages is a recent concept in Costa Rica and is rare throughout Latin America, according to Brenes.

“(Societal damages) confirm recognition by a company or individual that they participated in acts of corruption that affect the collective,” said Brenes.

The settlement comes as Rodríguez, who served as president from 1998 to 2002, prepares to go to trial on corruption charges. Rodríguez was expected to attend a preliminary hearing on Monday, but the court date was suspended after judges received new evidence, the newswire EFE reported.

The ICE-Alcatel trial, scheduled to begin on April 13, will be the second time a former Costa Rican president has had to face criminal charges in court. Former President Rafael  Angel Calderón was sentenced to five years in prison for embezzlement last October.

–Alex Leff

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