Tuesday 29 November 2022

Mayors involved in corruption cases could be removed from office

Six mayors are linked to alleged corruption for receiving gifts and bribes, according to OIJ

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29 November 2022 - At The Banks - BCCR

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QCOSTARICA – Through a plebiscite, mayors involved in Operación Diamante case could be removed from office.

A plebiscite to request the repeal of the mandate of Johnny Araya, could see the career of the long-time mayor of San Jose come to an end

The proposal of calling the voters of the canton to an election was already made in the Municipality of San José, the largest of the municipalities in the country, by municipal councilor Diego Miranda.

Read more: Johnny Araya and five other mayors arrested for alleged corruption with road works

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The idea is to end the municipal career, a career that spans for more than three decades, of Johnny Araya.

The MECO construction company is the link to the cantonal roadwork corruption, as well as corruption with the CONAVI and MOPT for national road works.

“Since the month of June, when the Cochinilla scandal was uncovered, I was emphatic in telling Mayor Araya and the councilors that the MECO contracts in San José should be investigated, as I had found various irregularities, both in the award process and in the execution of the works. At that time the mayor and his group called me uncomfortable and wanted to find hair in the soup where there was nothing,” said Miranda of the Juntos party.

Nothing transpired. Now, Araya is one of six mayors across the country being investigated for an alleged corruption case, all linked to the MECO construction company, one of the largest and most influential, whose owner Carlos Cerdas is currently in preventive detention (remand) in the Chochinilla case.

Early Monday morning, the OIJ carried out 40 simultaneous raids in 40, involving 600 officers and 32 prosecutors.

As part of the police actions, several municipalities were intervened, including those of San José, Cartago, Alajuela and San Carlos.

Authorities alleged the six mayors received bribes linked to cantonal roadworks

In addition to the mayors, Humberto Soto (Alajuela), Alfredo Córdoba (San Carlos), Arnoldo Barahona (Escazú), Mario Redondo (Cartago) and Alberto Cole (Osa), as well as Araya, and seven municipal officials were also arrested for their part in an alleged network of bribes for the construction, maintenance and bidding processes of public works in cantonal roads.

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Read more: Alcade Diamante: the Most Infamous Politician of the ‘Simpsons’

In total, the OIJ confirmed the arrest of 13 people.

The corruption, apparently, would include the delivery of gifts such as money, vehicles, homes, among others.

Johnny Araya, mayor of San José, (first in a light blue shirt on the right) enters the hearing requesting precautionary measures in Goicoechea, followed by other suspects. Photo: Albert Marín for La Nación

The Deputy Prosecutor for Probity, Transparency and Anti-Corruption will request precautionary measures in a hearing that was to have taken place on Tuesday, but postponed to today, Wednesday, meaning the defendants had to spend a second night in the judicial cells.

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Read more: Bill presented to limit re-election of mayors

A report from the Fiscalia said that the preliminary hearing may be delayed for three or four days, given the complexity of the case and the number of defendants involved, a precedent set in June in the Cochinilla case, when the hearing took place almost a week following the arrest of the more than 30 accused, instead of the usual 48 hours.

The plebiscite is an instrument that allows the voters of the canton to determine the future of a mayor. The proposal must be voted on by three-quarters of the Municipal Council. If approved, the elections for a new mayo, would proceed.

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