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Four judges reprimanded over Chinese cement scandal

July 13, 2018

Four judges from Costa Rica’s Supreme Court (CSJ) were reprimanded for “serious misconduct” after dismissing a case against legislators related to influence peddling in the Chinese cement case known as the ‘cementazo.’

Carlos Chinchilla, president of the CSJ, is among the sanctioned judges along with his colleagues Jesús Ramírez, Doris Arias and María Elena Gómez, members of the criminal wing of the court.

The four judges were reprimanded after they dismissed a case against two legislators who had been pointed out for collaborating with Juan Carlos Bolaños, the businessman at the epicenter of the cementazo scandal.

Bolaños, who is being held in preventive detention, is reported to have used political pressure and offered perks in exchange for the authorization to import Chinese cement with millions of dollars worth of unguaranteed credit from public banks.

Members from all three branches of government were caught up in the Bolaños scandal: one magistrate from the CSJ and the attorney general were dismissed, as well as the manager and board of directors in charge of the Bank of Costa Rica. The Vice Minister of Finance was also forced to resign.

The four judges were investigated after a report that they irregularly exonerated the now former legislators Otto Guevara and Víctor Morales Zapata, who were facing influence peddling charges related to Bolaños.

A judicial police report documented hundreds of phone calls between the two legislators and the Chinese cement importer, but the judges ignored the document.

Twelve members of the full court argued in favor of sanctioning their colleagues for “serious misconduct,” which would involve them being dismissed from their spot on the court. Such a measure would require votes from two-thirds of the magistrates, however, which comes out to 15 votes.

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