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Vol.19 No.0117 Thursday Edition, January 17, 2019
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Ministry of Finance fines 60 users
for not generating electronic invoices



By A.M. Costa Rica staff


As part of the control plans carried out by the Tax Department of the Ministry of Finance, since July 2018 actions have been taken to verify compliance with the use of electronic invoices. The department analyzed 1,570 cases and found 157 cases with irregularities.

According to the ministry, of the 157 cases found, 28 fixed the problem and made the corresponding electronic invoice but 60 were fined for an estimated total of 257 million colones ($427,339). Of those fined, 15 percent already paid the penalty.
 
According to the regulations of the ministry, whoever failed to comply with the electronic billing during 2018 will have to pay between 1,293,000 colones ($2,150) and 43,100,000 ($71,666). If the fault is generated this year, the penalty increases between 1,338,600 colones ($2,225) and 44,620,000 colones ($74,194). The changes in fines for this year are due to the change in the minimum salary amount for public employees, which is used as the base to calculate the fee.

According to Carlos Vargas, general director of Taxation, people must comply with the issuance and delivery of electronic invoices to avoid fines. In addition, Vargas calls upon consumers to make the complain at the ministry if they do not receive the electronic invoice for any purchases.

"We call to the citizens to continue supporting us in these efforts to improve taxpayer compliance through the complaint,” said Vargas.

The obligation to issue electronic invoices started in January 2018. To use the billing system, the Ministry of Finance enabled the necessary software on the website www.hacienda.go.cr.

In relation to the problems caused by the new electronic billing system, A.M. Costa Rica Wednesday published the news about scammers from jail caused the loss of more than $800,000 to users of the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Economy web page.

According to specialists, scammers were calling business people pretending to be executives of government agencies, such as the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Economy.

Government officials became aware of the scams because technicians detected that crooks could enter the Ministry of Finance website to access citizens' bank account information. This application was blocked, and the ministry site has new control systems to prevent the leakage of information, officials said Tuesday.

After getting a victim on the telephone, the scammer frequently mentioned that they must create a digital signature to perform the new and mandatory electronic invoicing program that was created by Ministry of Finance.

The scammers had victims enter legitimate websites run by the government, including Ministry of Finance or Ministry of Economy pages about taxes or public purchases. The victims were led step by step to register for these programs. When they finished, the scammers directed them to a website to end the process. This scammers page was identified as https // fd / TOKEN / TOKEN / TOKEN /

Scammers ask the victim to enter sensitive information, such as bank passwords, on that site with the pretext that this step is necessary to obtain a digital signature. On that site, run by the scammers, the victim's sensitive information was captured.


Invoice011719.jpg
A.M. Costa Rica wire services photo

If the fault is generated this year, the penalty
increases between $2,225 and $74,194.


As a last step, the scammers left the victim watching an instructive video of the digital invoice system of the Ministry of Finance. Alternatively the scammer pretended to set an appointment for additional government business.

While the victim watched the video or awaited appointment information, the scammers were using the victim's information to raid the business bank accounts.

According to the specialists, scammers have been spending from one to four hours talking over the phone with the victims.

To avoid more victims, the specialists give this series of recommendations so that the public can detect the scammers:

- Never take any call from any government institution or bank. None of those organizations are making calls to clients or sending executives to users home or offices. In the case of a call from a bank, members of the public should take the call and call the official phone number of the bank or go in person to the bank's customers support in person.

- Never accept any call from any executive institution asking to download any program in your computer. If you get a call from a person asking to download a program, you must cut the call and turn off the computer immediately.

- If you suspect you have received any scammer calls, you must go to an official complaint to the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The government representatives confirmed that in the next few days there will be a campaign called "This could happen to anybody” (“A cualquera le puede pasar” in Spanish), to alert the public and prevent frauds continue.


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Should the Ministry eliminate this electronic invoicing system and look for another type of tax payment control? We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to: news@amcostarica.com

 


Judge orders suspension of mayor of Guacimo




By A.M. Costa Rica staff


The Prosecutor's Office in Pococí confirmed that the Criminal Court of Finance and Public Function imposed precautionary measures against Gerardo Fuentes, mayor of Guacimo*, as well as against the municipal president, Manrique Mejías. Both are suspected of influence peddling, influence against the public treasury, ideological falsehood and use of false documents.

The precautionary pre-trial measures on both are: to sign in with the court once a month, to avoid having any contact with the witnesses of the case and to face suspension from their positions for six months.

According to Prosecutor's Office, another suspect, an urban development entrepreneur surnamed Barboza, was released without precautionary measures.

According to the case, which was outlined Tuesday in A.M. Costa Rica, last Nov. 1, Barboza was developing an urban project and requested a permit for potable water and sewage service from the Public Water and Sewers Institute of the Caribbean.

That request was rejected because the project did not comply with technical criteria. "Then Barboza had apparently transferred the property to another company to request again the potable water and sewage services to the Public Water Institute," said the Prosecutor's Office account.

According to the case, on Oct. 31 the other two suspects, Fuentes and Mejias met an official from the water institute "with the apparent purpose of influencing to obtain, improperly, the potable water services requested before by Barboza,” said the prosecutor's report Also investigated is if the documents presented to the institute has fake information, it added.

Evidence in the case was located during four raids Monday. One was at the Municipality of Guacimo* in Limon. Another was at the house of Fuentes. The third was at the house of Mejías. And the last was at the house of Barboza.

Another recent case of a mayor being suspected is that of Randall Chavarria, mayor of Puntarenas*. According to Prosecutor's Office in Puntarenas Chavarria was suspended without pay for six months.

This suspension is a precautionary measure as response of the investigation of the mayor for suspected crimes of breach of duties and embezzlement of funds, said officials. According to Prosecutor's Office, the actions occurred from 2015 until December 2017, the day on which the Public Prosecutor's Office conducted a search in different departments of the municipality.

One of the investigations involves the concessions at the San Lucas Beach Club of Puntarenas*. Prosecutors said "it is presumed that, during the operation of the spa, the mayor illegally used funds to pay for water and electricity to the company that was installed in the place." In December 2017, Judicial Investigating Organization agents raided the municipality of Puntarenas and seized relevant evidence for the investigation, such as documentation, computers, cell phones and mass storage devices, said the Prosecutor's Office on a statement.

The San Lucas Beach Club of Puntarenas* was closed in January of this year by the Ministry of Health because it did not have the proper operating permits.


Fuentes011519.jpg
A.M. Costa Rica wire services photo

Mayor have to sign in with the court once a month,
to avoid having any contact with the witnesses of
the case and to face suspension for six months.


Another case of a mayor being investigated is that of Marvin Solano-Zuñiga, mayor of Paraíso in Cartago*. He went to a second hearing Tuesday before the Special Commission of the Province of Cartago at the legislature.


Solano is being investigated for apparently approving several urban projects without complying with requirements, said investigators. In addition, there is a complaint of irregular charges in the potable water service on 55 occasions. Last  Feb. 5 judicial agents and staffers of the Anti-corruption Prosecutor's Office raided the Municipality of Paraíso*. They confiscated documents that will be used as part of the evidence of the case. Solano has resigned as mayor, which becomes effective Feb. 8.

Another case involving a major was in December 2017. The Court of San Jose sentenced the Limon major*, Néstor Mattis, to pay 7,600,000 colones ($12,723) plus 23,836.93 colones for interest ($40) for a total of 7,623,836.93 colones ($12,763) to the General Comptroller Office.

The court ruled that this debt is payable because of an alteration in a contract undertaken by the municipality. Mattis agreed to the contract and accepted his responsibility for it. The comptroller office also asked that Mattis be suspended from his position.

The court made a full investigation of Mattis' salary and holdings, including his vehicles. Mattis has asked the judicial department to make arrangements for the payment of his debt which he did, stating "The Department of Human Resources of the municipality is retaining biweekly for wage garnishment the sum of 72,338.00, for a total of 144,676.00 monthly."

Mattis, however, is still under investigation by the Comptroller Office. That institution said at the time that the Limón Municipality*  management was a "disaster the way in which the municipality performs budget management and purchasing."

According to the comptroller report "the municipality allocated a significant amount of public resources for the period between 2016 and 2017, more than $5.6 million." The money was used by 173 suppliers. These purchases are under investigation. 

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Should a mayor who is being investigated must resigns? We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to: news@amcostarica.com

*Click on the blue letters to reach the place in google maps. 

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