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Minister Defends Dealings With Mafia Associate

May 9, 2008

Costa Rica’s public security minister, less than a month into her post, is fending off allegations that she aided a woman with ties to the Italian mafia.

The daily La Nación last Thursday detailed ties between Janina del Vecchio and Anna Moscarelli, an Italian-born Swiss national who handled money for two men associated with the Cosa Nostra, an Italian mafia organization.

Moscarelli claims she did not know the money was tied to the mafia.

Del Vecchio, while working as the Costa Rican ambassador to Switzerland from 1994 to 1998, recommended Moscarelli to the Costa Rican Tourism Board as a “prestigious” investor whom she knew personally.

Moscarelli, once in Costa Rica, founded the investment group Grupo Papagayo and took out a $3 million loan from the Roman Catholic Church in Costa Rica, through the administrator of the Pastoral Services of the Episcopal Conference, according to La Nación.

Moscarelli told La Nación that del Vecchio sold her a BMW and, after returning from Switzerland, lived in her home and worked for her, facts not disputed by the public security chief.

La Nación also quoted Moscarelli in an interview as saying that she had told del Vecchio about the investigations into her alleged connections to Cosa Nostra, which del Vecchio denies.

However, in a statement released Friday morning,Moscarelli recanted, saying del Vecchio never knew about the allegations or Moscarelli’s dealings with the Italians and called the article “inexact and offensive.”

In Friday’s press conference, a clearly perturbed del Vecchio repeatedly denied ever knowing about investigations into Moscarelli either as an ambassador or during their friendship, insisting her relationship with the woman was professional and legitimate.

The public security minister, a former math professor who was elected to the Legislative Assembly in 2006, was tapped to replace Fernando Berrocal after he was forced out over statements he made alleging Costa Rican political “sectors” had ties to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Colombian rebel army.

Del Vecchio quickly found herself at odds with the Costa Rican press after declaring on her first day as minister that Costa Rica’s crime problem is not as bad as it seems.

 

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