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Judge orders preventive prison for two men arrested in border road scandal

December 15, 2012

A financial crimes court on Saturday issued five months of preventive prison to Manuel Serrano and Miguel Ramírez, two engineers responsible for oversight of the construction of Route 1856, a road parallel to the Río San Juan on the border with Nicaragua.

Serrano, Ramírez and four others were arrested on Wednesday as part of an ongoing probe of alleged embezzlement during the scandal-plagued project.

The preliminary hearing began at 1:30 p.m. on Friday and ended Saturday at 3:30 a.m.

The former director of the National Roadway Council (CONAVI), Carlos Acosta, will not remain in custody. He was given precautionary measures, which were not disclosed publicly at the time. The other detainees, contractors David Castillo, Giovanni Baralis and Johnny Muñoz, were ordered to check in with the court every 15 days and are prohibited from leaving the country.

Chief Prosecutor Jorge Chavarría said on Friday that the preventive prison request was based on legal aspects: “We believe, and we may be wrong, they are the core group from which all planning was generated. It is therefore appropriate to issue preventive detention,” Chavarría told the daily La Nación on Saturday.

Route 1856 is a 160-kilometer road parallel to the Río San Juan, inaugurated by President Laura Chinchilla in February as a response to the country’s ongoing border dispute with Nicaragua.

CONAVI has spent more than ₡20 billion ($40 million) on the project to date.

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