Congressional representatives from the Frente Amplio party filed a complaint this week with the Public Prosecutor’s Office alleging President Rodrigo Chaves engaged in influence peddling.
The severe accusations also implicate Deputy Pilar Cisneros, officials from the National Radio and Television System (SINART) and Costa Rican Oil Refinery (RECOPE), and presidential advisor Christian Bulgarelli.
Education Minister Katharina Muller confirmed in a written response that Bulgarelli serves as a presidential advisor. She suggested his company RMC received contracts from SINART and RECOPE without public tender.
“The minister identified Mr. Christian Bulgarelli as the President’s communication advisor and Bulgarelli has received millionaire contracts, several directly,” said Congressman Jonathan Acuña Soto.
The legislators believe this could constitute criminal influence peddling if accurate. As part of the presidential communications team, Bulgarelli is accused of gaining contract favoritism from President Chaves and other high-ranking officials.
“This must be investigated by the Prosecutor’s Office. They should inquire about possible conflicts of interest and influence peddling directing contracts to close associates actively participating with the Government,” warned Congressman Ariel Robles.
If proven true, the allegations would violate Article 52 of the Law Against Corruption and Illicit Enrichment in Public Service. This prohibits influencing a public official to gain unfair economic advantage, punishable by 2-5 years in prison. Penalties increase if a president is involved.
President Chaves firmly denied the accusations on Thursday, dismissing them as politically motivated.
“We have nothing to hide,” Chaves stated. “All contracts were granted based on merit. Any allegations of misconduct will be transparently investigated.”
The Public Prosecutor’s Office confirmed receipt of the Frente Amplio complaint and said a formal inquiry is underway. Congresswoman Pilar Cisneros rejected her alleged involvement, saying she has never used her position improperly.
This marks the latest controversy for President Chaves just three months into his term, following May’s sexual harassment allegations.