International Police Won’t Arrest Ex-President

December 10, 2004

DOUBTS about whether LegislativeAssembly members have the power toinvolve the International Police (Interpol)in their quest to bring ex-President JoséMaría Figueres (1994-1998) back to CostaRica to explain his alleged involvement ina major corruption scandal were put to restthis week: the answer is no.Political leaders, including PresidentAbel Pacheco, have urged Figueres, wholives in Switzerland, to return here eversince he admitted to receiving $906,000from global telecommunications giantAlcatel in 2001. At press time, however,the Prosecutor’s Office had not named theformer head of state as a suspect orrequest his testimony, which preventsInterpol from taking action.Alleged payments from Alcatel toFigueres, ex-President Miguel ÁngelRodríguez (1998-2002) and former officialsof the Costa Rican ElectricityInstitute (ICE), from which Alcatelreceived a lucrative contract in 2001, arethe subject of a major government corruptionscandal under investigation by theProsecutor’s Office.When Figueres failed to appear beforethe assembly on Dec. 1 as requested, thePublic Expenditures Committee, headedby Luis Gerardo Villanueva, requested thatthe Public Security Ministry ask Interpolto force Figueres to return.However, Public Security MinisterRogelio Ramos told the assembly Mondaythat Interpol authorities decided they couldnot intervene, since the organization’s constitutionprevents action on behalf of politicalinterests, according to the daily LaNación.Ramos said Interpol will not takeaction unless the Prosecutor’s Office opensa case against Figueres or a judge issues acapture order, as was the case whenInterpol intervened to ensure the return ofRodríguez in October (TT, Oct. 22).Villanueva told The Tico Times lastweek that Figueres must appear in personbefore the assembly so he canrespond to legislators’ questions, suchas “why his honorarium was contingentupon Alcatel’s ICE contract. He still hasnot responded to that.”

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