San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Verdict delayed in high-profile Costa Rica corruption trial

The case against former Costa Rican President Miguel Ángel Rodríguez and other prominent figures accused of corruption in a telecommunications sector contract bidding scandal has been delayed until April 27, according to Judge Rosaura García, president of the Finance Trial Court in San José. The verdict had been expected this week.

Rodríguez and eight other defendants – including public officials, consultants, lawyers, and the then-representative of French telecom company Alcatel in Costa Rica, Edgar Valverde – are on trial for allegedly accepting Alcatel bribes.

Costa Rica’s prosecutor’s office on February 7 asked for seven years of prison for Rodríguez for charges of aggravated corruption and illicit enrichment.

Rodríguez governed from 1998 to 2002 and served briefly as secretary general of the Organization of American States until he was arrested by Costa Rican police in 2005.

He is accused of receiving more than $800,000 in illegal payments from the French telecommunications company in exchange for helping it receive a $149 million government contract to provide 400,000 cell phone lines in 2001. In a previous letter to The Tico Times, Rodríguez adamantly denied the charges (TT, Jan. 14).

Prosecutors said Rodríguez, who belonged to the Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC), had his top advisor, José Antonio Lobo, accept a $2 million commission from Alcatel in exchange for the 400,000 cell phone lines, and the two allegedly agreed to split the kickback.

Rodríguez called the legal proceedings a political and media “circus. He is the second Costa Rican former president to face trial for corruption in the last two years. In 2009, Rafael Ángel Calderón (1990-1994) was sentenced to five years in prison for the collection of fees from Finnish medical equipment supplier Instrumentarium Medko Medical Corp., of the Fischel Corp.

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