San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Prosecutors raid Costa Rica lawmaker Justo Orozco’s office in ongoing probe

Costa Rica’s Prosecutor’s Office and agents from the Judicial Investigation Police at 1:30 p.m. on Monday raided lawmaker Justo Orozco’s office at the Legislative Assembly in San José.

Agents were looking for evidence in an ongoing investigation of Orozco, who is accused of misusing public funds and resources to conduct private business. The raid was ordered by the Penal Branch of the Supreme Court, or Sala III, according to Legislative Assembly Executive Director Antonio Ayales.

An investigation in August by Telenoticias Channel 7 found that the Costa Rican Renovation Party lawmaker was using his public office to provide private legal and notary services when he was supposed to be in legislative sessions. He allegedly used government resources to conduct that private business, Channel 7 reported.

Costa Rica’s Constitution does not forbid current lawmakers from working in a private practice, as long as business is conducted off government property and outside of official work hours.

Channel 7 reported that in the last three years Orozco performed 44 private notary tasks at his Legislative Assembly office, including 31 marriages, six business contracts and two divorces, among others. During Monday’s raid, investigators confiscated the lawmaker’s private practice logbook from the National Registry.

Following the Channel 7 report, Orozco acknowledged conducting private business while serving as a lawmaker, but he said the work was “pro-bono,” and “part of social aid I offered to poor people and as favors to friends.”

But not charging for his services would have violated the country’s Notary Code, which states that notaries are obliged to use the Costa Rica’s Lawyers Association fee table for all services provided.

In August, officials from the National Notary Administration raided Orozco’s private office, located in Hatillo, a suburb south of the capital.

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