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Authorities arrest lawyer with ties to ruling Citizen Action Party on fraud suspicion

August 12, 2014

At 6 a.m. on Tuesday, Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) agents raided the home of Jorge Sibaja Rodríguez, a lawyer and member of the ruling Citizen Action Party (PAC). Police are investigating Sibaja’s alleged use of forged documents to commit fraud against the Costa Rican Social Security System, or Caja, in April.

Sibaja worked as a consulting attorney for the Caja in debt collection. Earlier this year, Caja officials noticed irregularities in billing for Sibaja’s fees, which allegedly included falsified documents stating that several collections had been completed. But Caja officials were unable to find any matching documents in their financial records.

During Tuesday’s raid, OIJ agents seized Judicial Branch watermarked stationary and rubber stamps apparently used by the attorney to forge collections documents.

Sibaja, who is a member of the PAC’s Internal Elections Tribunal, recently was scrutinized after it was made public that he charged the party ₡277 million ($500,000) for the authentication of 55,000 party member signatures presented to the Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE), despite the fact that the requirement is unnecessary. The TSE has free online tools to certify signatures.

In light of the ongoing scandal, members of PAC’s directorate last week agreed not to file those expenses as public campaign financing funds reimbursed by the TSE.

Following his weekly Cabinet meeting today, President Luis Guillermo Solís responded to media questions about the arrest by saying, “Sibaja was not part of this campaign. He was a party employee.” Solís added that the issue is in the hands of judicial authorities and he had no further comment.

During the raid, OIJ agents also seized several archaeological artifacts that were verified as genuine by experts from the National Museum. Possession of those artifacts is forbidden under Costa Rican law.

At about noon, Sibaja was sent to the Prosecutor’s Office to be officially charged.

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