For many foreigners, North Americans in particular, getting married to a Costa Rican national is the quickest method to obtain residency and naturalization (citizenship). And for the most part, these marriages are nothing more than a paper shuffle, dissolved when the objective is met.
The transaction is simple, either by direct contact or by way of an intermediary (usually a lawyer or notary), the couple accord to enter into an arrangement where typically, the man pays the woman for the use of her name to register the marriage that is then used to file for residency and/or naturalization. Once the legal status is obtained, a divorce is filed. Foreign women do the same, though the numbers are significantly lower as compared to the men.
By and large this arrangement is straight forward. Case of extortion, the national demanding additional compensation in exchange for the divorce is uncommon. Usually the foreigner lives a low key lifestyle, careful not to reveal to his or her spouse the true nature of their wealth and assets held in Costa Rica.
But what happens when the foreigner is super wealthy, as in the case of Arthur Budovsky?
On May 25, Budovsky was arrested in Spain and extradited to the U.S. on money laundering and other charges. U.S. officials allege that the Costa Rica-based Liberty Reserve laundered some US$6 billion over a period of seven years.
Following the arrest, Costa Rican authorities moved quickly to seize Budovky’s assets that includes four Roll Royces, a Mercedes Benz and a motorcycle. Under costa Rica’s laws, the assets must be auctioned off by the Instituto Costarricense sobre Drogas (ICD)– an arm of the Presidencia to finance Costa Rica’s fight against drug trafficking.
Learning that her “paper” husband was a mult-millionaire with tons of cash and tons of assets – cars, real estate, etc- in Costa Rica, Yessenia Valerio Vargas, has decided to get her share of the pie.
Yesenia Valerio Vargas (now 39 years old), according to her lawyer, Javier Vargas, will be seeking that the Juzgado de Familia (Family Court) hand over half of the assets seized from her husband, saying, “it is the right thing”.
“I am the wife, it is not right that I face eviction because I don’t even have ¢100.000 colones (US$200) and have no where to grab, having such a rich husband”, Valerio told La Nacion in an interview his week.
“It’s been almost six years, it’s all legal, there are witnesses, lawyers. I accepted (Budvosky’s offer) because I have three children, I had to accept. That was enough to convince me”, said the woman.
“Two weeks later (the lawyer) introduced me to him, I married him (Budvosky) and both went on with our normal lives. I dated him about four times, we went out for coffee, we talked, he never came by car and never saw him wealthy.
“He later told me that he had a business in the United States. He came and went (from Costa Rica). It was nine months ago the last time I had contact with him, he said he was going to the U.S. and then realized it was him who was arrested in Spain”, Valerio, who is currently unemployed, related to La Nacion.
Today, Valerio considers it “unfair” given her circumstance, having such a rich husband and she is just getting by.
However, Valerio feels it worse that the Costa Rican government is trying to get it all. “It’s not fair that he became a naturalized Costa Rican because of me and now the government wants to win (take everything for themselves) and nothing for me. I am his wife, I’m biting my nails because I have no job”, said Valerio.
Valerio’s lawyer said on Tuesday that “there is no reason to annul the marriage”, an action being sought by government as part of the process to revoke Budovsky’s nationalization.
Vargas told La Nacion that his client will be filing a case to seek “one half of everything Budvosky acquired in the country from 2008 to 2011, when the money laundering investigation began”.