One of the most anticipated trials in Costa Rican history begins Monday in a corruption case against former President Rafael Angel Calderón Jr. Calderón, who has expressed interest in running for president in 2010, will face charges that he accepted kickbacks for helping a Finnish medical equipment firm sell goods worth $39.5 million to the Caja, the national public health care system.
He has admitted receiving $520,000 from Walter Reiche, then president of the pharmacy Fischel, a Costa Rican representative of the Finnish firm. But Calderón, a lawyer, said the money was payment for legal consulting services.
Calderón, who was president from 1990 to 1994, was arrested in late 2004 and completed a series of preventive detention terms, both at his home and in a state penitentiary, for about one year.
Seven others, including former executives at the Caja and at Fischel, will stand trial for their involvement in the deal. The state plans to call 115 witnesses, and the defense will call 185, according to Marisel Rodríguez, a Prosecutor’s Office spokeswoman.