Costa Rica Coffee Guide

Villalobos Brother’s Pre-Trial Hearing Begins

February 4, 2005

A preliminary audience began this week to determinewhether Osvaldo Villalobos, one of two brotherswho allegedly operated an illegal multimillion-dollarinvestment company that shut down in 2002, will facea trial.It is a plodding start for a justice system that hasbeen excruciatingly slow, say former investors in“The Brothers” operation. Villalobos has been inprison or house arrest for more than two years servinga detention order to prevent his possible flight (TT,July 23, 2004).He is charged with fraud, money laundering andillegal financial intermediation.Meanwhile, thousands of investors have yet to seetheir money.THE hearing before a judge involves testimonyfrom the government prosecutor, Villalobos and hisdefense team, and the official declarations of wrongdoingfrom at least 300 of an estimated 6,000investors. It should end by early March, said JudicialBranch spokeswoman Sandra Castro.It is likely the hearing will lead to a trial, saidEdgardo García, Villalobos’ normally tight-lippeddefense attorney. He told The Tico Times this isbecause “a tidal wave of actions have been takenagainst him,” referring to the investor complaints.García said he couldn’t comment on the argumentsin Villalobos’ defense, but said the court is“against the wall” because it waited too long to takehis client to court.“HE has been in jail 24 months, which worries the state,” García said. “You’re supposed tohave the investigation ready to go on to thenext phase. So, it’s the court that owns themeat in the window that’s going bad – theyhave to act quickly and have waited toolong.”Government prosecutor WalterEspinoza refused to comment on the casethis week.Villalobos’ brother, Luis EnriqueVillalobos, is at large, sought by CostaRican and International Police (Interpol)authorities for the same allegations facingOsvaldo.The two ran an unregulated high-yieldinvestment business and a currencyexchange house for approximately 20years.INVESTIGATORS raided theVillalobos brothers’ Ofinter S.A. offices inSan José and the San Pedro Mall andOsvaldo’s home on July 4, 2002, seizingdocuments, computers and more than$300,000 in cash, sparking panic amongthe thousands of investors who had loanedout minimum sums of $10,000 apiece inexchange for monthly interest returns of2.8-3% (TT, Nov. 14, 2003).The bottom dropped out in October2002, when the offices were closed (TT,Oct. 25, 2002). Soon after, Luis Enriquedisappeared and Osvaldo was arrested. Aninternational arrest warrant was issued forLuis Enrique.Luis Enrique cannot be tried in hisabsence, judicial spokeswoman Castro said.Whether the pursuit of Luis Enriquewill continue depends on the prosecutor’s“interest,” said Osvaldo Villalobos’ lawyerGarcía.SOME investors said they depositedtheir life savings in the business and havebeen cut off from the money since the closure.No one has reliably disclosed howmuch of clients’ money is missing, butsome say as much as $1 billion vanishedwhen the business folded.Prosecutors froze about $7 million inaccounts linked to “The Brothers,” unfrozeit in January 2004 and stashed it in anaccount of the Criminal Court of San Joséat a bank whose name was not divulged,according to a representative of theJudicial Branch. It will remain there atleast until after Osvaldo’s trial or release(TT, July 23, 2004).John Manners, president of the boardof United Concerned Citizens andResidents (UCCR), a group that representssome 650 investors, says Luis Enrique hassent three letters by e-mail to investorssince he disappeared.UCCR sent the latest letter Jan. 18 toits e-mail list of approximately 1,000investors, Manners told The Tico Timesthis week. He said he confirmed the letter’sauthenticity by checking separately withtwo people who each have contact withLuis Enrique, but added he could notreveal the sources.The letter is addressed “to thosewho’ve loaned me money,” and mentionsthe trial. It reads, “I reiterate my dispositionto cancel my debts at the opportunetime, once the judicial process is finished.”The letter thanks those who trustedhim, says those who didn’t will have to“await payment for a more prolongedperiod,” and concluded, “I maintain trustin God and the courts of the Republic thatwe will be shown to be correct, since all Idid was receive loans, pay them punctuallyand work honestly for more than 30years.”

You may be interested

Costa Rica coronavirus updates for Wednesday, September 30
Costa Rica
5587 views
Costa Rica
5587 views

Costa Rica coronavirus updates for Wednesday, September 30

Alejandro Zúñiga - September 30, 2020

Costa Rica announced 24 new coronavirus-related deaths over the last day for a total of 904, according to official data…

Some 34 million jobs lost in Latin America due to pandemic
Business
3341 views
Business
3341 views

Some 34 million jobs lost in Latin America due to pandemic

Carlos MANDUJANO / AFP - September 30, 2020

The two aspirers for the presidency of Costa Rica, the evangelical preacher Fabricio Alvarado and the former minister Carlos Alvarado, reach the closing of the electoral campaign for April 1st with a technical draw, according to a poll disclosed this Friday.

CureVac launches second stage of vaccine clinical trials in Peru and Panama
News
21363 views
News
21363 views

CureVac launches second stage of vaccine clinical trials in Peru and Panama

AFP - September 30, 2020

The German pharmaceutical company CureVac announced that it has started Phase 2 clinical trials of its experimental vaccine against Covid-19,…