Costa Rican authorities on Monday raided the Presidential House and various state agencies, and they detained at least two owners of construction firms in an operation to dismantle an alleged network of bribes in exchange for public works.
During the operation, led by the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ), 57 raids were carried out, both at public entities and at private homes. It is presumed that the network embezzled between 2018 and 2020 about 78,000 million colones, equivalent to about $125 million.
“We identified a scheme of bribes, a scheme of royalties and undue payments directed at public officials sponsored by private companies. (…) There was even a system of intermediation between private companies and officials that allowed the delivery of bribes and the subsequent laundering and concealment of those movements,” said the director of the OIJ, Wálter Espinoza.
According to official information from the OIJ, at least 28 suspects have been arrested as of midday Monday, including two of the owners of important construction companies in the country.
The police entered 14 public institutions, including the Casa Presidencial, the National Highway Council (Conavi), the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MOPT) and the Public Transport Council (CTP), among others, and multiple offices of private companies, in addition to 21 houses of people linked to the alleged network.
“There was a complaint against a group of public officials who irregularly favored some companies and who did so to obtain benefits in the field of maintenance, development, and construction of roads,” Espinoza said.
“These companies had a monopoly on awards and public tenders because they had the support of officials who gave irregular profits,” added the head of the OIJ. Favors allegedly included cars, land, cash, and more.
The crimes under investigation are embezzlement, bribery, ideological falsification, embezzlement and influence peddling.
Casa Presidencial issued a statement indicating that it is cooperating with all judicial proceedings, adding that “public management must be carried out in strict adherence to legal and ethical standards.”
This is the second time that Casa Presidencial has been raided under this administration. In February 2020, authorities entered presidential headquarters as part of investigations into the possible illegal access to sensitive personal information related to the Presidential Data Analysis Unit (UPAD).