Monday 25 September 2023

Fiscalia: Oscar Arias devised a ‘criminal plan’ to develop the Crucitas mine ‘at all costs’

Prosecutor's Office attributes to the former president two apparent crimes of 'prevaricato'; defense affirms that the accusation is 'a speculative theory

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The General Prosecutor’s Office (Fiscalia) filed on Friday an accusation ‘prevaricato’ against former president Oscar Arias Sanchez with the Juzgado Penal de Hacienda, del II Circuito Judicial de San José – Criminal Court of the Treasury of the Second Judicial Circuit of San José.

Former President Oscar Arias described the accusation by the Public Ministry as “a complete falsehood.” Photo: Jose Cordero

“The accused Oscar Arias Sanchez, from his position as head of state, drew up the plan so that the Crucitas mining project could be developed by achieving administrative actions and resolutions at all costs, even contrary to law,” reads the statement filed with the Court.

According to the Ministerio Público (Public Ministry), Arias devised an alleged “criminal plan” for the Canadian company Industrias Infinito to operate the Crucitas mine, in Cutris de San Carlos, during his second administration (2006-2010).

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In the indictment, the Fiscalia attributes two crimes of malfeasance for allegedly dictating resolutions contrary to the law and based on false facts.

First, the Fiscalia accuses the former president of the signing of a resolution to “validate and correct” the mining concession to Industrias Infinito, in 2008, presumably knowing that this permit had been repealed by the Constitutional Court or Sala IV four years earlier, and despite the fact that the project apparently lacked a new environmental impact study.

And second, of declaring the project of national convenience without supposedly having a cost-benefit analysis that demonstrated that the deforestation of 192 hectares of forest would generate greater social benefits than the socio-environmental impact.

That document, says the Prosecutor’s Office, was an indispensable requirement for the signing of the decree.

According to the Fiscalia, Arias “delegated the material execution of his plan” to his then Minister of the Environment, Roberto Dobles Mora, who is also accused of the same.

Consulted by La Nacion, Arias’ lawyer, Rodolfo Brenes, said his client reminded readers his opinion article Por qué aprobé elproyecto Crucitas? published in that newspaper on January 15, which reads:

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“To imply that in some way the project is especially related to me or my administration is a complete falsehood. Anyone who would have been elected in 2006 would have received the mining company’s request for a concession.

“Anyone who would have been elected would have received the same recommendation from Minae’s (Ministry of Environment) technical staff to declare the national convenience project, something that was derived from our own legislation, which states that mining is in the public interest.

“And anyone who would have been elected would have had to decide whether to sign the decree for which I am currently accused, a decree such as the one signed by hundreds in the exercise of the presidency.”

Brenes questioned the account of the facts released this Friday by the Prosecutor’s Office, in a private session, and insisted that everything is a “speculative theory”.

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“That is totally false and is nothing more than a speculative theory, which has no evidentiary support. It must be remembered that the project had been in process since 1993. The environmental feasibility was granted in 2005, during the administration of Don Abel Pacheco, today the current Environment Minister Carlos Manuel Rodríguez,” said Brenes.

The lawyer added, “In addition, we must not forget that many aspects of the project were analyzed by the Constitutional Court, which gave it its approval. And, of course, the Attorney General’s Office defended the legality of everything that was done. In fact, in light of this background, it is understandable why the Prosecutor’s Office did not interview 16 witnesses in the case of Oscar Arias. If they had, it would have been impossible to accuse him (Arias).”

Among the witnesses, the Fiscalia intends to call are former Environment Minister René Castro under the Chinchilla Administration and the former Attorney General from 2004 to 2010, Ana Lorena Brenes.

The two are on the list with four others witnesses for the prosecution if the case goes to trial.

Wiki deifnes “Prevaricato” as a crime that consists in an authority, judge or other public servant dictating an arbitrary resolution in an administrative or judicial matter knowing that said resolution is unfair and contrary to the law. It is comparable to breach of the duties of the public servant. Such action is a manifestation of an abuse of authority.

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