Saturday 2 December 2023

Informants assisted OIJ in corruption investigations, says the minister

Rodolfo Méndez assures that there two informants within the Conavi met with judicial agents; rules out resignation: "I am here to face what must be faced"

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QCOSTARICA – The investigation into alleged bribery of public officials in exchange for contracts for road works, received help from informants within the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad (Conavi).

They were two employees of the Conavi who helped agents of the Organismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ) from the beginning, according to the MOPT minister, Rodolfo Méndez.

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“These people,” he said, “had expert knowledge of how Conavi operates, which is why for almost three years they have clarified doubts and provided information to the authorities.”

Méndez insisted that his office helped the OIJ and the Fiscalia (Prosecutor’s Office) since the first warning lights emerged what was happening inside the Conavi, one of four councils attached to the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes (MOPT). – Ministry of Public Works and Transportation.

This Wednesday, the OIJ refuted the Minister’s assertion by stating that it allegedly only has information from data provided anonymously by two Conavi employees in 2018 and unrelated to the actions carried out on Monday under the case name “Cochinilla.”

For this reason, 57 raids were carried out on Monday and as of Wednesday, 33 people detained, among them, there are 14 officials (13 Conavi employees); businessmen Mélida Solís Vargas and Carlos Cerdas Araya, from the construction companies H. Solís and Meco, respectively; as well as project engineers and legal representatives of those companies.

There are 19 other people who were not arrested and an additional 23 linked to the cause and whose identities are still unknown.

At the moment, all are attributed crimes of bribery, influence peddling, fraud, ideological falsification and use of a false document for a deviation of ¢78 billion colones; assures the OIJ.

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According to the minister’s version, the origin of the collaboration came after transparency and moral seminars that were held at Conavi between May and August 2018, which were attended by Mario Rodríguez Vargas, who would later become the director. of that entity.

During those sessions, Rodríguez heard comments at the discussion tables about possible irregularities in the institution. At that time, no participant knew that he would go on to lead the Council.

Once in office, Méndez explained, the new director informed him of what he had heard and that was when they decided to investigate.

Read more: Construction companies that paid alleged bribes would be disqualified for ten years

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However, they determined that the set of facts and implications exceeded the capacities of the institution to find out what was happening and how. So they decided to go to the OIJ for help.

“Mario met with two agents in his office in 2018 and expressed the need we felt to dig deeper into a series of things that were not going well; suspicions due to the actions of officials who showed that they had material resources beyond what their income would allow. Cars above all, ” said Mendez.

According to his account, there were several meetings in absolute confidentiality.

Not resigning

While the accusations are raining down and explanations are demanded for the alleged acts of corruption, Minister Méndez affirms that he will not resign.

MOPT Minister Rodolfo Mendez with President Carlos Alvarado (right). File photo

The 84-year-old declared on Wednesday that he cannot “run away” from office after the OIJ disclosed the alleged embezzlement.

“Leaving would be the irresponsible way to act; I am here to face what has to be faced,” he stressed.

Méndez said that he knew of apparent irregularities from the beginning of his management (May 2018), however, he claimed to be surprised by the amount of the funds, according to the OIJ, that was allegedly diverted.

He admitted that there are facts that he does not know in relation to the investigations. What he is certain of is that he will not leave office amid this political storm.


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