Costa Rica court orders new trial against ex-President Miguel Ángel Rodríguez and 7 other former public officials

June 25, 2015

A financial crimes court on Tuesday ordered a new trial to move forward against Costa Rica’s former President Miguel Ángel Rodríguez Echeverría and seven other public officials in a case involving charges of alleged embezzlement involving two state-owned agencies.

The Prosecutors’ Office is accusing all eight defendants of “diverting public funds” by over-billing an insurance policy signed by the National Insurance Institute (INS) with British company PWS to insure National Electricity Institute (ICE) assets.

The case also includes INS former Executive President Cristóbal Zawadzki Wojtasiak, his wife Gilda Montes de Oca, INS official Álvaro Antonio Acuña Prado, his wife Roxana Cordero Bogantes, INS’ former Insurance Manager Rónald Bonilla Rodríguez, and ICE officials Antonio Corrales Moya and Ramón Lara Molinari.

The prosecutor’s indictment states that defendants allegedly used funds generated overpricing on the insurance policy to create a slush fund used for travel, leisure activities and cash for personal use.

A criminal court in February 2013 dismissed the charges against all of the defendants, but prosecutors appealed that ruling. Last April, the court began hearing the appeal, and on Tuesday, ordered a new trial. Judges have not yet set a date for that trial.

Rodríguez, 75, served as Costa Rica’s president from 1998-2002. He was involved in another case of corruption charges in 2004, barely a month after taking over as secretary general of the Organization of American States. He resigned from that post to attend the trial in Costa Rica.

He was sentenced in 2011 to five years in prison, but that sentence was revoked by a court that cited the statute of limitations on the charges and errors in the handling of evidence during the investigation.

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