Alcatel trial postponed

January 13, 2011

Conclusions in the case of former President Miguel Angel Rodríguez were postponed on Monday after attorneys introduced evidence from Alcatel-Lucent court proceedings in the U.S.

The court is now awaiting translation of the Dec. 27 Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) settlement in Florida, which shows that Alcatel wired more than $14.5 million into Costa Rica through offshore bank accounts. Nearly a half of the money went towards paying off government officials in the negotiations of a telecommunications contract.

Rodríguez (1998-2002), who was near the end of his four-year term at the time of the negotiations, is one of several government officials accused of accepting bribes (see letter above). According to the settlement, other officials who have allegedly accepted bribes include Costa Rican Electricity Institute authorities (more than $6 million), a presidential candidate  in the 2002 elections ($100,000) and a Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC) leader then in the Legislative Assembly ($550,000).   

The negotiations overlapped the 2002 election year in which Rolando Araya of the National Liberation Party (PLN) challenged PUSC candidate Abel Pacheco. After news surfaced about a $100,000 donation by Alcatel to a presidential campaign in Oct. 2004, PLN leaders initiated an internal investigation into Araya’s campaign. Rolando Araya, brother of San José Mayor Johnny Araya, claimed that he never accepted the donation. He has since left the PLN.

Former President Abel Pacheco admitted that his presidential campaign received a donation of $100,000 from Alcatel, according an EFE wire story published Sept. 28, 2004. 

“[Alcatel officials] told me that they only asked for fair treatment,” Pacheco told EFE. “I told them that fairness did not require giving money to the campaign, but they said they wanted to contribute to democracy.”

Rodriguez is not the only president in Costa Rican history to stand trial. Former president Rafael Angel Calderón (1990-1994) appeared before judges in Oct. 2009, was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay a $500,000 fine for an unrelated case. His attorneys appealed and a final ruling is pending.

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