Thursday 9 February 2023

Fiscalia confirms investigation against minister for alleged embezzlement amid controversy over payments to ‘troll’

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8 February 2023 - At The Banks - BCCR

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QCOSTARICA – The Fiscalía General (Attorney General’s Office) confirmed that it opened an ex officio investigation against the Minister of Health, Joselyn Chacón, for the alleged crime of embezzlement amid the controversy over the payments he made to Alberto Vargas, identified as a troll by the name ‘Piero Calandelli’.

The current Minister of Health, Joselyn Chacón. Photo: Casa Presiencial

On Monday, Chacón admitted having made a payment of ¢300,000 (in three monthly payments of ¢100,000) to Vargas but denied that the payments made to Vargas were to discredit journalists and opposition legislators, but rather that it was a matter of “charity”, that she made a mistake in believing Vargas, that the troll deceived her by telling her that his mother was sick, that he had three daughters and that he needed money.

Monday’s version is far from what Chacón herself declared, on December 29, when she stated that it was a payment to promote a health campaign.

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Read more: Costa Rica’s “GAME of TROLLS”

For his part, Vargas has affirmed publicly that the minister paid him for online attacks against journalists and legislators, releasing screenshots of the official’s receipts and proof of payment.

The Fiscalía specified that what is being investigated is the origin of the funds with which the troll was paid, to determine whether or not it is public funds. This situation has been denied by the Minister, who insists that they were of her own resources.

“The case was assigned the file number 23-000001-PE”, indicates the statement issued by the Fiscalía.

Costa Rica’s Código Penal (Penal Code) establishes that a public official who steals or diverts money or goods whose administration, collection or custody has been entrusted to them by reason of their position will be punished with imprisonment from three to twelve years.

Also, a prison sentence of three months to two years is also imposed on the public official who uses, for their own benefit or that of third parties, works or services paid for by the Public Administration or property owned by it.

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After knowing the opening of the investigation, the Ministry of Health reported that the entity “will place itself at the order of the judicial authorities and will collaborate widely with what is required.”

Chacón, through her press office, said that she will cooperate with judicial authorities and will collaborate widely with what is required.


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