Ziad Akl, the 45-year-old Canadian-Lebanese, who with his brother Elias formed one of the most vicious loan shark operations in the country, accepted the charges against him and agreed to an abbreviated process that could see the 23-year prison sentence confirmed by the Pavas Criminal Court in the coming days.
The Akl brothers, known to Costa Rican authorities and recommended expelled from the country, formed the criminal group dedicated to lending money at exorbitant rates, in which, in case of non-compliance, debtors were subjected to beatings, torture, robbery and other violence.
Akl, was arrested at the Juan Santamaria international airport in San Jose (SJO) on May 15, 2017, hours after his brother Elías was murdered in Guachipelín de Escazú, while taking his young daughter to school.
According to the Office of Narcotrafficking and Related Crimes, informal taxi drivers as their main clients of the Akl brothers, who along with others, operated out of a luxury home in Guachipelin.
The authorities determined that between 2016 and 2017, the Akl brothers – together with the others – committed crimes of attempted homicide, extortion, kidnapping, aggravated and robbery, among other crimes.
The judicial investigation determined that at least 200 people took out loans with the Akl brothers. The clients, in their majority, were from Escazú, Santa Ana, La Sabana and other surroundings of the greater metropolitan area.
The Akl brothers asked few requirements of their customers to obtain the money, typically an informal guarantor, who would ultimately answer if the debt was not repaid.
If the customer was late (in repaying) a bully, who was sometimes Ziad, was sent to collect. If the customer could not pay, they went to the guarantor.
The amounts typically ranged from US$2,000 to US$20,000 dollars.
“When the victims claimed they could not pay the full debt, the brothers threatened these people and their families. In specific cases, the sentenced person (Akl) threatened the lives of his victims, deprived them of their liberty, robbed them and caused physical injuries,” said the accusation made by the prosecution.
Ziad Akl has been in custody since his arrrest.
This is how the loans operated:
- The client (borrower) showed up at the gym owned and operated by the Akl brothers in Escazu, with an informal guarantor who would ultimately respond (pay) for the debt.
- They signed a kind of promissory note, reached a basic agreement and agreed on the amount and term of the loan.
- The loans came with heavy penalties for late payment.
- 1 day late: interest would be ¢2,000 colones per ¢100.000 borrowed.
- Second day late, the fine was double: ¢4,000 colones per ¢100.000 borrowed.
- Fourth day late, the fine was now ¢17,000 colones per ¢100.000 borrowed.
- Fifth day late: threats, aggressions and intimidation begins (by text message, calls or on social networks).
- The fines and threats were in addition to the original borrowed amount to be repaid.