Thursday 1 December 2022

“Chochinilla” case: Court eliminates house arrest for owners of MECO and H. Solís

The Prosecutor's Office was looking to extend the measure for another eight months

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QCOSTARICA – The Criminal Court of Finance and Public Function lifted the house arrest and the electronic monitoring for Carlos Cerdas and Mélida Solís, owners of the companies MECO and H. Solís respectively, while they are being investigated for the “Cochinilla” case of alleged corruption in the construction of public works.

Defense attorneys confirmed the decision made by the Court on Monday. Both, Cerdas and Solís, will continue with an impediment to leaving the country and the bonds in judicial deposit for US$10 million dollars from Cerdas and US$5 million from Solís.

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The Prosecutor’s Office had requested that the house arrest be extended for another nine months.

Solís and Cerdas have been discounting custodial measures for more than a year. They were held in preventive detention (remand) at a correctional center for eight months, the measure changed to house arrest and electronic monitoring six months ago.

The two, along with a score of other company employees and public officials of CONAVI, Ministry of Public Works and Transportation (MOPT), and Ministry of Finance, are alleged to have committed crimes of bribery, illicit association, embezzlement, influence peddling, and ideological falsehood.

According to the Fiscalía de Probidad, Transparencia y Anticorrupción (FAPTA) – Integrity, Transparency and Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office, a total of 82 defendants (33 of them public officials) and 17 companies are being investigated in the case.

In the photo, Carlos Cerdas Araya and Mélida Solís Vargas, owners of the construction companies MECO and H Solís, respectively

The Prosecutor’s Office contends that the government was defrauded for some ¢78 billion colones between the years 2018 and the first quarter of 2020. That is the figure that, according to the judicial hypothesis, caused a financial gap after the supposed payments attributed to dozens of public officials in exchange for favors.

As the director of the OIJ, Walter Espinoza pointed out from the day of the raids in June 2021, it is not an amount that has been stolen, but rather that it could have been mishandled.

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“We have detected that there is a gap or a hole of a budgetary nature generated by these irregular transfers that are around ¢78 billion. That does not mean that this money has been stolen, but rather that it has been embezzled,” Espinoza said on June 14, 2021.

However, according to Erik Ramos, the lead defense lawyer for Cerdas, the judge determined that this damage is nonexistent and hence the elimination of the precautionary measures.

Ramos added that with the judge’s decision it is clear that things were overblown and there was inefficiency on the part of the Prosecutor’s Office in the investigation.


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