San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Former BCIE president's 20 year prison sentence upheld

Ricardo Alem’s fall from grace continued last Thursday when the former Central American Bank for Economic Integration (BCIE) president was sentenced to 20 years in prison for possession of cocaine and international drug trafficking charges stemming from a 2008 arrest.

In August 2008, Alem and four Colombian men were arrested in a raid conducted by the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) on the office of Corporación Rical Heredia Corpori S.A. in the San José neighborhood of La Uruca. During the raid, the OIJ seized more than 35 kilograms of cocaine and shut down the company, which was thought to be tied to an international drug ring responsible for cocaine shipments to Guatemala and Germany. On Dec. 21, 2010, Alem and Colombian Alejandro Mejía were found guilty of drug-trafficking charges and convicted to 20 years in prison.

“The accused are linked to a drug-trafficking organization that appears to be dedicated to sending cocaine to Guatemala and Germany, by both air and sea, from a location that was based and operated in La Uruca,” a press release from Judicial Court said Friday. “The drugs were brought from Colombia through Panama and later sent to Europe in shipping containers…On the day of the raids, agents found a shipment of drugs within an office of the private firm, located in La Uruca, whose president was the accused Alem.”

In 1987, Alem was the president of the BCIE during the first presidency of former president Oscar Arias. Alem was arrested in 1988 on drug charges in Costa Rica, though was later acquitted. In 1995, Alem was arrested for drug-trafficking in Miami, Florida. He served a 12-year prison sentence for the conviction and was released in Dec. 2007.

On Thursday, judges of the Judicial Court voted unanimously to uphold the 20-year sentence.

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