Wednesday 22 March 2023

“Diamante” mayors suspended for six months!

MECO manager ordered to house arrest with electronic monitoring. The measures are in effect for six months while the investigation progresses

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22 March 2023 - At The Banks - BCCR

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QCOSTARICA – The six mayors implicated in the “Diamante” case were suspended from their posts for six months.

The Juzgado Penal de Hacienda y la Función Pública imposed, late Friday, the precautionary measures on Friday against the mayor of San Jose, Johnny Araya; Humberto Soto, from Alajuela, Mario Redondo, from Cartago; Arnoldo Barahona, from Escazú; Alfredo Córdoba, from San Carlos and Alberto Cole, from Osa.

Johnny Araya, mayor of San José, Mario Redondo, mayor of Cartago; Humberto Soto, mayor of Alajuela; Alfredo Córdoba, mayor of San Carlos and Alberto Cole, mayor of Osa and Arnoldo Barahona, mayor of Escazú. Photos Archive. Johnny Araya, mayor of San José, Mario Redondo, mayor of Cartago; Humberto Soto, mayor of Alajuela; Alfredo Córdoba, mayor of San Carlos and Alberto Cole, mayor of Osa and Arnoldo Barahona, mayor of Escazú.

In addition, they will not be able to leave the country and not approach witnesses. As to salaries, which range from ¢2.5 million to ¢5.7 million colones monthly, in the case of Araya, judge Julissa Jiménez ruled it is a matter that must be resolved by each municipality.

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The measure is less than the eight months requested by the Prosecutor’s Office, which considered eight months of suspension.

The court also ordered house arrest with electronic monitoring for surnamed Gutiérrez, the MECO employee, for whom the Prosecutor’s Office had requested preventive detention (remand). He is singled out for allegedly being the link between the company with local governments.

All have denied the charges and claim to be innocent.  The defense lawyers immediately filed an appeal for the measures imposed.

Diamante is an investigation into alleged organized crime in which municipal officials favoring the MECO company in tenders for public works contracts in exchange for gifts or other remuneration.

On Monday, November 15, the Organismo de Investigacion Judicial (OIJ) and the Fiscalía Adjunta de Probidad, Transparencia y Anticorrupción (FAPTA) – Deputy Prosecutor for Probity, Transparency and Anti-Corruption – 40 raids in different parts of the country, as part of an investigation that reveals the alleged existence of a criminal organization that has allowed MECO to obtain at least 15 tenders irregularly.

Wálter Espinoza Espinoza, director of the Judicial Police, indicated last Monday that this investigation, called Operation Diamante, began in April 2019 and lasted until August 2021.

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“This joint activity aims to unravel and clarify acts of corruption. Various officials were linked with MECO for the purpose of favoring them in matters of tenders, the advance payment of invoices, the anticipated start of public works and the carrying out of a series of activities that are eventually constitutive of crime.

“The municipalities operated separately, the concentric point of the activity is the MECO company, which is the one that participates in the tenders, the one that generates accommodations in the tenders, the one that makes suggestions, the one that pays out gifts and the municipalities function as points of interest, as areas in which money can be obtained beyond what a tender would normally produce,” said Espinoza.

Prosecutor Glen Calvo indicated that same day that, apparently, the gifts to public officials, included constructions in houses, cash, vehicles and other favors that he did not specify.

For his part, the owner of the MECO company, Carlos Cerdas, is currently in preventive detention (jail), accused in the Cochinilla Case, for alleged corruption in national roads contracts with the Conavi and the Ministry of the Transport and Public Works (MOPT).

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