Mario Barrenechea, the suspended general manager of the Banco de Costa Rica (BCR), will be the first, today Monday, to be transferred to the San Sebastian jail, confirmed the director of the Organismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ), Walter Espinoza.
The other five members of the State bank’s senior management and Juan Carlos Bolaños, the importer at the center of the “Cementazo”, the import of Chinese cement in Costa Rica, must wait their turn to be admitted to San Sebastian due to overcrowding at the jail, where more than 40 others are in line to be admitted.
Espinoza said that given Barrenechea’s age, 67 and who turns 68 on November 13 and is a senior, he will be moved to the jail rather than continue to be held in the jail cells of the OIJ.
The OIJ chief added the six have been evaluated by doctors said, “they are in good health, they are going to make an exception with Barrenechea, in consideration of his age.” Espinoza added that the rest are going to be on the “normal waiting list” pending to be admitted.
The San Sebastian is the San Jose jail that holds prisoners awaiting trial or sentencing or have been convicted to short terms.
All seven have been held by the OIJ since early Friday morning’s raids and arrests. Saturday night, a San Jose court ordered the six to three months “prisión preventiva” – pretrial detention or remand, in a hearing that lasted some 18 hours.
The “cementero”, the man at the center of the “cementazo” corruption case that continues to touch businessmen, politicians and financiers, Juan Carlos Bolaños, 38, is accused of embezzlement (peculado in Spanish), influence peddling, slander and “simulacion de delito”.
The bankes are charged with embezzlement, “for facilitating the theft of public money,: which is punishable by sentences of 3 to 12 years in prison.
The next step in what will probably be a long (years) process of pretrials, trials, appeals and more appeals, is the appeal of the preventive detention imposed by the Juzgado de Turno Extraordinario.
Juan Marcos Rivero, the cementero’s lawyer, told La Nacion that all six are in the same cell and does not know what will happen now with the transfers. The lawyer added that the prison system is “totally collapsed.”
The #Cementazo has been almost daily headlines in the local Spanish newspapers and television news since June.
Related: A Synopisis of the Cementazo Scandal
Bolaños, at the center of the scandal, is president of JCB group, and Sinocem, a company created to import cement from China. The case surrounds the investigation into a loan of US$30 million dollars by the Banco de Costa Rica to Sinocem. The loan itself is not unusual, rather the conditions under which the loan granted, using the cement itself as a guarantee. The same cement was also offered as a guarantee for another loan at the Banco Popular.
Of the US$30 million, only one third, US$10 million dollars worth of cement actually arrived in Costa Rica. The BCR had wired the funds to the Hong Kong Supplier, which only returned US$7.5 million dollars to Sinocem accounts in Costa Rica.
The bankers are alleged to have granted Bolaños and his companies the loan without adhering to requirements and regulations of the bank, one of them the short life of cement that was used as the guarantee for the loan.
The #cementazo has its roots back in 2014 when Luis Guillermo Solis of the Partido Accion Cuidadana (PAC) won the presidency, breaking the two-party politics, the Partido Liberacion Nacional (PLN) and Partido Unidad Social Cristiana (PUSC) in the country for more than 50 years.
The Solis government was serious about opening cement market dominated by two companies, Holcim and Cemex.
Bolaños, an unknown but with experience in public contracts, saw the political opportunity to ride the wave of change, dared to mix up the market with bringing in cement from China, which, despite the cost of transport, made up with low prices.