Costa Rica

Highway corruption probe rocks Costa Rica as govt, company offices raided

Bnamericas Published: Wednesday, June 16, 2021
Highway corruption probe rocks Costa Rica as govt, company offices raided

At least four infrastructure firms and various Costa Rican government officials are being investigated over allegations that they participated in a corrupt scheme involving highway contracts for bribes that could cast a shadow over President Carlos Alvarado’s administration.

Judicial investigation authority (OIJ) said on Monday that it raided 57 homes and offices, including government facilities, as part of an investigation into an alleged corruption scheme, where highway contracts were supposedly awarded to a select group of companies in exchange for bribes.

The sites raided by police included the offices of the finance ministry, the public works ministry MOPT, highway authority Conavi, public transport council CTP and the office of the presidency. 

So far, justice authorities have detained 28 people with possible links to the corruption plot, OIJ said in a statement. One of them is an advisor to the president, while two company owners have also been taken into custody, according to local media. 

"We’re going to raid private companies that are directly linked to the crimes that we’re investigating and which, from the perspective of the investigation, were favored and were involved in the execution of criminal activities,” judicial police director Walter Espinoza said in a video statement. 

“We intend to arrest 32 people,” he said. 

Among the companies thought to be involved are domestic firms Constructora Meco, H. Solís, Cacisa and Constructora Herrera.

While authorities did not mention any specific contracts or projects that may have been awarded illegally, they did say that bribes were exchanges for highway contracts.

Espinoza also explained that funds for some projects were redirected towards other purposes and developments were often left without essential resources. He said that the scheme involved the loss of around 78bn colones (US$126mn) in public funds between 2018 and 2020. 

The investigations began in 2019 after formal complaints were presented in 2018, he said, adding that the attorney's office helped with the investigation. 

In a national address on Monday, Alvarado denied that he was involved in the scheme and said he has instructed the public works administration to cooperate with authorities.

“Like you, I feel tremendous indignation, rage and fury about these acts of corruption," he said.

"It is my hope... that [police] get to the bottom of this and find and punish those responsible, regardless of who they are," he added.

Photo credit: OIJ

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