Wednesday 6 December 2023

Sticks and stones: Johnny Araya and José María Figueres

The San Jose mayor under investigation reminds the former president and now presidential candidate of his appeal to the principle of innocence in Alcatel case

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RICO’s DIGEST – Johnny Araya, who is being investigated for alleged acts of corruption in municipal contracts, reminded the presidential candidate of the Partido Liberacion Nacional (PLN) and former president, José María Figueres, that he appealed the principle of presumption of innocence when he was investigated for the ICE-Alcatel case back in 2004.

Through an audio sent to Noticias Monumental, by way of his lawyer Alfonso Ruiz, the mayor Josefino said: “When a public worker, in this case a mayor, is removed from his position for an investigation, the principle of presumption of innocence must operate and the accusations that have been made cannot be taken for granted.

“José María Figueres himself appealed the principle of presumption of innocence when he was linked to the Alcatel case and he had every right to do so.

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“So, in these circumstances, the labor rights of any worker must be respected and part of those rights is the right to wages. Thus, I am very confused and do not share, from any point of view, the statements of José María Figueres,” said Araya.

On Monday, Figueres called a press conference to say that “no salary should be paid to any public official who has been suspended by the Courts of Justice.”

“It does not make sense that public money continues to support them when a court has withdrawn their public responsibility,” added the PLN candidate and former president (1994-1998).

Meanwhile, Johnny Araya defended his right to receive a salary during the six-month suspension and also pointed out that the precautionary measures imposed by the Criminal Court of Finance are not yet final, as the defendants appealed the decision.

“His statements about him may be misleading not only the PLN councilors but also the councilors of other political parties that are members of those municipal councils. It also surprises me that José María Figueres ignores the fundamental principle of our Political Constitution,” continued Araya.

At left, Johnny Araya was detained on November 15, 2021, for alleged acts of corruption in municipal contracts; on the right, former president and currently presidential candidate, Jose Maria Figueres Olsen

Figueres in the ICE-Alcatel case

The former president, who is seeking his second presidential term, was investigated in 2004 for allegedly having received US$906,000 for a consultancy that he carried out on behalf of the firm HF Desarrollos Interdisciplinario S.A. for the Alcatel company.

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The telecom company was involved in a scandal over the payment of gifts to obtain a contract for the sale of 400,000 cell lines to the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE).

The firm had to compensate the State with US$10 million.

In the context of the allegations, Figueres resigned from his role as CEO and executive director of the World Economic Forum in October 2004. Transparency International had highlighted this incident in their Global Corruption Report in 2006.

Figueres was never summoned nor charged by the Fiscalía (Costa Rican Attorney General’s office.

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On 19 September 2007, the Attorney General formally announced that there were no grounds on which to press any charges against Figueres, asking the court to dismiss the case against Figueres, allowing the former president to return to Costa Rica after his self imposed exile, sorry working, in Europe.

Chemise case

In 1991, when Figueres was seen as a possible contender for the presidency, brothers David and José Romero published a book accusing Figueres of having participated in the extrajudicial execution of a drug dealer named Jose Joaquin Orozco, known as “Chemise”.

Paradise Papers

In November 2017 an investigation conducted by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism cited Figuires’ name in the list of politicians named in “Paradise Papers” allegations.


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