The Minister of Public Works and Transportation of Costa Rica, Rodolfo Méndez, became one of those investigated in relation to an alleged bribery scandal between construction companies and the government, the Public Ministry reported on Wednesday.
The investigation was opened for the “alleged crime of breach of duties, without prejudice to the fact that other types of crime may be included as the investigation progresses,” the official communication said. The complaint was filed by the Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office.
Méndez Mata was not part of the 30 arrested last Monday, June 15, when the Prosecutor’s Office began an operation against an alleged criminal network, involved in the payment of gifts from construction companies to obtain contracts for the construction and maintenance of public works and roads.
Between 2018 and 2020, these irregular payments would have created a financial imbalance for the country of 78,000 million colones, which corresponds to approximately $125 million.
Among those arrested are 14 public officials, 13 of whom are part of the National Highway Council (Conavi), an institution in charge of awarding contracts for infrastructure projects.
The remaining apprehended belong to five Costa Rican construction companies. The most important are MECO and H. Solís, which currently have state contracts worth about $900 million.
In addition, an advisor to President Carlos Alvarado, Camilo Saldarriaga, who submitted his resignation, is being investigated; so too is the manager of the Comptroller General of the Republic, Allan Ugalde, in charge of resolving appeals to public tenders.
The case in Costa Rica was identified as “Cochinilla,” referring to a parasitic insect that lodges in the cactus and sucks its nutrients.