Monday 8 March 2021

Akl Trial Winding Down

Foreigner was arrested in May 2017 at the San Jose airport while trying to leave Costa Rica, hours after his brother was gunned down in Escazu

The Canadian of Lebanese origin, Ziad Akl, may be spending the next 35 years in a Costa Rican prison if found guilty for perpetrating a series of extortions between 2016 and 2017.

That is the request made by the Ministerio Público (Public Prosecutor’s office) during the trial that began on October 29, in the Tribunales de Pavas (Pavas Criminal Court).

Prosecutor Henry Meza also requested 21 years in prison for Kelvin Augustus Pinnoch Campbell and 11 years for Jean Carlo Fernández Jiménez, members of the Akl crew.

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The prosecutor told the court how the foreigner and the other two men were part of an alleged organization dedicated to the loan of money, mainly to informal taxi drivers, in Guachipelín de Escazú and when the taxi drivers could not repay, above all because of the high interest, they were threatened, deprived of their freedom and beaten.

Dinia Padilla Mora, the lawyer of the Office of the Civil Defense of the Victim, demanded the payment of ¢25 million colones from the three accused, for material and moral damages suffered by four of the victims, notwithstanding that none of the suspects has declared assets in their name. The only money they have is the seizure of US$9,000 (¢5.4 million) at the time of the arrests.

The trial will continue on Wednesday with the closing arguments of defense lawyers.

Ziad Akl was arrested in May 2017, at the Juan Santamaria airport (San Jose airport) in Alajuela, trying to leave the country, hours after his brother, Elias Akl, was gunned down in an early morning ambush in Escazu. He was taking his little girl to school when gunmen opened fire at his vehicle as it entered the school. The little girl survived the attack without injury.

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Earlier this year, in June, the Ministerio Public accepted a plea deal of 23 years and 4 months in prison for Akl. However, the Pavas court rejected the deal and ordered the foreigner to trial.

“They were part of an organization committing crimes such as extortion and had a plan of action in which each member had established functions,” said Meza in his closing argument.

For her part, Dinia Padilla argued “that the three took advantage of the vulnerability of the victims who were, above all, simple people”.

During the trial, 14 witnesses gave testimony to the three-judge panel made up of Álvaro Abarca Picado, Mauricio Jiménez Vargas and José Pablo Alvarado Cascante.


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