A French investor based in Costa Rica handed over, in 2001, one million dollars (US$1,048,000) to the high interest paying investment firm Savings Unlimited. However, the company closed in 2002. Sixteen years later and after many legal struggles, this woman managed to recover a total of US$6,337 dollars of her initial investment.
The woman was one of the hundreds who entrusted their investments to Luis Angel Milanes Tamayo, known as “The Cuban”.
It is estimated nearly 500 people, mostly foreigners, invested and lost more than US$200 million dollars with The Cuban
Milanes, a very good businessman of Cuban origin, arrived in Costa Rica in 1998. And with same cunning he was able to get investors to fork over millions, estimated at US$200 million in 2002, he moved to evade justice in the country.
In 2002, for reasons only known to him, Milanes abruptly closed Savings Unlimited and fled the country, a few months after aonther high-interest paying scheme closed its doors, with a reported portfolio of close to a billion dollars, known as “The Brothers”, run by Enrique Villalobos.
In June 2008, Milanes was arrested in El Salvador. Under strict police custody, he was returned to Costa Rica on June 19 and two days later was released on bail, posting assets – the remaining assets from the investments – of US$12 million dollars.
Following a long period of negotiations, Milanes came to an agreement with a group of about 150 investors. This was in April 2012.
Milanes, who elected for an abbreviated process, was found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison, but without going to jail, the prison time was converted to five years probation. In addition, Milanes agreed to pay a penalty of US$2.5 million dollars for his crimes.
That arrangement was not endorsed by a group of 350 investors, who, through their lawyer working with the Ministerio Publico (Prosecutor’s Office) managed to get Milanes to face a second trial, which ended in December 2015, and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
José Pablo Badilla, Milanes’ defense attorney, appealed the sentence and, in June 2016, the Court of Appeals annulled the conviction.
Milanes was immediately ordered released from prison, when judges Mario Alberto Porras, Patricia Vargas and Ronald Salazar ruled that Milanes had been already tried in 2013 and could not be subjected to another trial for the same crimes in 2015.
However, Ewald Acuña, the legal representative of the group of 300 investors challenged the acquittal before the Sala Tercera (Third Chamber of the Supreme Court), which on April 2017 determined that both trials should be taken as independent since the first involved a group of victims and the second a different group.
Then Sala Tercera magistrate Celso Gamboa said, “When the facts constituting a continuing offense are judged and then another set of facts that belong to it are known in court, what is appropriate is to also pronounce judgment on the seconds; (…) each fact is independent in time and must be determined the authorship of the accused in them.”
Based on that, the Sala Tercera annulled the acquittal and sent the case back to the Court of Appeals.
On February 8, 2016, the appeals court ratified the 15-year prison sentence against Luis Milanes.
However, this ruling will be challenged again before the Sala Tercera, announced last Thursday Jose Pablo Badilla.
For his part, Ewald Acuña said he is confident that the conviction will be final. “This case is 16 years old and keeps on going, the offenders recovered very little of their investments (…), there is a huge sense of frustration because the condemned person is not yet serving the sentence and, on the other hand, the financial recovery it has been scarce.”
In Acuña’s opinion, it will take between 18 and 24 months for a court to issue an arrest warrant against Milanes.
Even if the Ministerio Publico and Acuña, on behalf of the investors, get a favorable decision by the Sala Tercera, there is one big problem: the whereabouts of Luis Angel Milanes is a mystery.
Nobody knows where he is and, according to the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería – immigration service – the now 68-year-old man has in the past used three passports, none of which registers a recent exit through an authorized border post. The last official departure was on February 22, 2002.
Even his lawyer, José Pablo Badilla, alleges that his whereabouts are unclear.
In an interview with La Nacion, Badilla said he doesn’t know where is client is, “I always communicate with him by email. I have the slight idea that he is out of the country. I imagine he was terrified when he saw his legal situation. I think he has left the country.”
Asked if he has any indication of his client’s whereabouts, the lawyer said, “We, criminal lawyers, when we work with this, we do it under an ethical framework and under professional secrecy (…).”
According to Badilla, the only assets Luis Milanes has in Costa Rica, if he is in Costa Rica, are the clothes on his back. “Don Luis is an absolutely dispossessed man,” said the lawyer.
Asked about the assets, Badilla said all the assets have been distributed to the offended (investors) in a trust.
The lawyer confirmed that assets such as the Hotel Europa was sold with the agreement of Milanes. So was the house in Escazu that was part of the conciliation with the group of 150 investors. The title to the lots in Santa Ana and other properties are part of a contentious process.
The last time Milanes was seen in court, at trial he used an oxygen mask. Asked about his client’s health, the lawyer said,
Don Luis has been ill for a long time. He has a heart problem and is diabetic. He is still young, but very sick.”
Source (in Spanish): La Nacion