San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
National Liberation Party

Figueres testifies in legislative probe

For nearly two hours, ex-President José María Figueres (1994-1998) appeared before the Legislative Assembly’s Public Spending Commission, where he stated – as he has many times before – that he “has a clear conscience,” because he never committed a crime and was never formally charged by the Chief Prosecutor’s Office.

Figueres repeated statements he previously made, saying that he never received a request to appear before any legal authority for the events surrounding a $900,000 payment he received from telecommunications company Alcatel, which sought business in Costa Rica.

Roberto Hidalgo, a business partner, and former National Liberation Party General Secretary Carmen Valverde also received $900,000 for their participation in contract negotiations that helped secure a concession contract for Alcatel with the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE). The contract involved upgrading cellphone services to GSM technology. The French company won a $149 million contract from ICE, and a second one in 2002 for $109 million.

“The accusations against me were based merely on newspaper clippings and gossip,” Figueres said in response to persistent questioning from lawmaker Walter Céspedes, of the Social Christian Unity Party, and others.

Céspedes told The Tico Times that he was “unsatisfied with Figueres’ answers,” as “all of [Figueres’] contracts were verbal, and he never signed any documents.”  Céspedes said the former president “deflected all questions” regarding criticisms that the Chief Prosecutor’s Office treated his case differently than the cases of former presidents Miguel Ángel Rodriguez (1998-2002) and Rafael Ángel Calderón (1990-1994), both sentenced for corruption in similar cases.

Lawmaker Yolanda Acuña of Citizen Action Party repeatedly stated that the Alcatel negotiations were part of a “corruption scheme.” In response, Figueres said he never participated in negotiations with Alcatel, and that he never spoke to any of ICE board members. “I was a hired as a consultant and that’s all I did,” he said.

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