San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Crime

Court acquits ex-minister Roberto Dobles of graft

A San José court on Monday acquitted former Environment and Energy Minister Roberto Dobles Mora of all charges that he illegally granted a contract to a private mining company connected to a relative while he was in office.

In 2006, the Environment and Energy Ministry, under Dobles, granted mining company Agricultura Mecanizada Chapernal a five-year permit to extract sand, stone and gravel from the bed of the Aranjuez River in Puntarenas province. Dobles’ uncle is on the board of directors of one of the company’s parent corporations.

The charges were filed based on the country’s Illicit Enrichment Law and the Mining Code, which prohibit public officials from granting permits or contracts to close relatives up to first degree of consanguinity.

Judges ruled that Dobles’ signing of the decree authorizing the mining contract was not unlawful because the company is owned by various corporations, and only one of them is related to one of Dobles’ uncle.

Dobles’ lawyer, José Miguel Villalobos, said the charges were baseless as Dobles only signed the decree as a minister, but the contract was granted by the Energy Ministry’s legal department. He also said the contract did not benefit Dobles as he does not have any relation to the company and therefore he was in compliance with provisions of the Mining Code.

The court also dismissed a ₡500 million ($925,000) civil lawsuit filed against Dobles by the Government Attorney’s office.

In January, Dobles was sentenced in a separate trial to a three-year suspended sentence for breach of public duty in granting the Canadian mining company Infinito Gold an open-pit gold mining concession in Crucitas, in the northern Alajuela canton of San Carlos, in 2008.

The court granted him five years probation during which he is also banned from holding public office.

Contact L. Arias at larias@ticotimes.net

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