San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Tourist shows one way to respond to bribe-seeking cops


Dave Siegwald spent an unexpected three days of his vacation fighting corruption in Costa Rica.
On his way back from the Guanacaste, he was pulled over by a policeman and told he was traveling well over the speed limit. Siegwald questioned the accusation, as he had just been warned by a friend about the new fines and was driving carefully. 
But the policeman tapped on his radar gun and told Siegwald he was due a ¢220,000 ($411) ticket.
“He told me, ‘I am going to be nice. You only have to give me $50,’” Siegwald said, recalling the incident.
Many tourists would grab the discount and speed off, but Siegwald, a former criminal investigator, wasn’t taking the bait.
“I guess I’m hardheaded,” he said. “I hate corruption. I said to myself, ‘I will report the son of gun.’”
And that’s just what he did.
Once back in San José, he went to the offices of the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ). Despite spending the next three days of his vacation aiding in an investigation, he said he did what he had to do.
“It seems like everyone complains about the way things are here,” said Siegwald, a frequent visitor to Costa Rica. “My message is that you can do something about it.”
The OIJ is using Siegwald’s story as an example of what foreigners should do if a police officer asks for a bribe. Authorities advise victims to take down the policeman’s name and badge number and call 800-8000-645 or visit the closest OIJ office to file a complaint.
“They seem like they are trying really hard to prevent this from happening,” Siegwald said of the police efforts to curb bribes. “They were very professional, spoke English and moved things quickly.”
Siegwald said he paid the ¢220,000 ($411) fine, but is fighting it through his credit card company in the United States.

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