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The following articles were published Thursday, June 27, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 126
Jo Stuart
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A.M. Costa Rica photo
'Hurry up and wait' is the motto at the Los Anonos bridge beween Sabana Oeste and Bello Horizonte where traffic lights are merely a suggestion. The one-lane span  is a super bottleneck. But a contract has been approved to widen and fix up the bridge. 
Retired top cop
faces theft rap

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A top-ranking police official is being investigated on a count of car theft. The man involved is a retired comandante who once supervised the entire district of Limón for the Fuerza Pública, according to a spokesman for the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Agents said that the man, his son and another young man face the allegation that they took a car and then contacted the vehicle’s owner to seek payment for a safe return. The amount specified was about 50,000 colons, some $140, said investigators.

Such blackmail by car thieves is typical here where state-provided auto insurance only compensates an owner for 80 percent of the value of a stolen vehicle.

The spokesman for investigators identified the man as Francisco Noguera Solís, who was head of the Limón district in 1997 and 1998. Also arrested was Francisco Noguera Rosalis, 18 and Michael Guillen Thompson, also 18.

This is the second public relations blow in a week for the Fuerza Pública. Agents arrested three patrolmen last week in Curridabat and said that they had been working in conjunction with a band of armed robbers and provided critical inside information.

The Fuerza Pública members are the police who dress in blue. They usually are the first at the scene of a crime.

Gold project is worth $620 million, firm says
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Vannessa Ventures Ltd. figures that its canceled Crucitas open pit gold mine is worth about $620 million. 

The Canadian mining company provided this figure in a report to its stockholders Wednesday, in part, to explain why the value of the stock has plummeted. The shares lost 15 percent of their value Wednesday, opening around $1 per share and closing at about 85 cents, according to the company's home page.

The stock traded around $2.50 per share as June began.

The company blamed a single news report from Costa Rica for its problems. It said that a reporter wrote about how Costa Rican President Abel Pacheco put a moratorium on open pit mining. But the reporter did not say that Costa Rica said existing rights would be respected and that compensation would be paid, said the company.

Actually, at least one gold mining publication has consistently reported the correct status of the project here in Costa Rica.

Pacheco acted because residents of the areas north of San Carlos and along the San Juan 

river fear an open pit mine that would use cyanide to leach out the gold. Vannessa already has completed much of the permitting process.

The firm said in its report to stockholders that it anticipated a net profit on gold extraction of $15 million a year for at least seven years. In addition, the total value of gold on the site, according to feasibility studies is about $620 million or $12.90 per share of stock.

Manfred Peschke, president and chief executive officer of Vannessa, said he did not expect Costa Rica to actually pay that much in compensation. He doubted it was able.

"We do not suggest that the government would or could compensate the company for the loss of its assets, but we do believe that it is not very likely that any government would forgo the social and economic benefits of a business opportunity of this magnitude," he said.

Vannessa also has problems with its Cristinas project in Venezuela.

The market value of a stock does not directly affect the company that issues them, but it does measure public confidence in the firm and its future. The price also reflects the company’s  ability to raise more money in the future, a critical need for mining companies.

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U.S. bribery trial ends in conviction of investor
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Kansas City man has been convicted of conspiracy and involvement in a plan to bribe Costa Rican officials in order to win his company a big port concession on the Caribbean.

The man is Robert Richard King, 68, whose lawyer said the jury action would be appealed. A federal court jury this week found him guilty of four counts of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and one count of conspiracy.

A Costa Rican, Pablo Barquero Hernandez, also was indicted in the case, but he remains a fugitive in Costa Rica.

The case centers around a plan by King and Owl Securities & Investment of Kansas City to develop a major port facility on Costa Rica’s Caribbean. The former president of Owl, Stephen Kingsley, secretly taped a number of conversations with King that were used at the trial. Kingsley, himself, was found dead last year floating in the Missouri River.

Investigators said that his death was from a heart attack. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations said the death took place while Kingsley was trying to fabricate his own abduction. Two other officers of Owl have pleaded guilty to related charges.

The U.S. government said that King and others 

paid up to $350,000 to Costa Rican officials and had plans to pay $1.5 million more in bribes to expedite the plan. Paying bribes to foreign officials is a crime in the United States.

King did not testify at the trial, but an FBI special agent, Robert Herndon, testified that an examination of the financial records of Owl showed that the $350,000 had been paid. He did not name the Costa Rican officials who were supposed to have gotten the money, and he may not even have the names.

King was a major investor in Owl. Additional evidence was gathered by an undercover FBI agent who posed as an investor.

The FBI originally moved against Kingsley, but when he found out about the investigation he agreed to provide evidence. About 250 conversations were secretly taped during the investigation, the FBI said.

The Caribbean project would have been about 50 square miles. There would be a salvage yard that King proposed as well as docking facilities.

King’s defense lawyers argued that his client was a victim of a con artist, Kingsley, who was really just interested in stealing the investment money for his own uses. Some Costa Rican officials agree, saying that the idea of bribes was just a scam to get North Americans to invest in the company.

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Susan Hall Liang, Ann Antkiw and Lisa DeFuso get an embrace from director Thomas Humes.

Theatre Group planning
a pair of dinner shows 

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Little Theatre Group is going to give two dinner theater performances next month.

The play will be one-act "Art." And the dinner will follow both the Saturday, July 27, 7:30 p.m. presentation and the Sunday, July 28, noon presentation.

The English-speaking theater group has limited the tickets to 60  for each show and dinner. The play goes on at the Blanche Brown Theatre in Bello Horizonte. The dinner follows in the nearby home of Stephanie and Kenin Glass, according to an announcement from the group.

The menu includes prime rib, but there is a fish or vegetarian alternative.

Thomas Humes is directing the production, and actresses are Susan Hall Liang, Ann Antkiw and Lisa De Fuso, all veterans of many group productions.

Information is available from the theater at 289-4905 and from Sidney Glazer at 282-4142, ext. 105. 

Agency helps country
import goods from U.S.

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

When you see them fixing up the Gran Hotel Costa Rica, the U.S. federal government will be in there helping.

The Export-Import Bank of the United States said Wednesday that it has approved a $10.2 million medium-term bank-to-bank insurance policy that allows a Costa Rican bank to lend money to Costa Rican builders and developers to buy $11.75 million of capital goods and services from U.S. exporters. 

Under this repetitive sales policy, Allfirst Bank of Baltimore, Md., will extend credit to Banco de Costa Rica, said the agency. Transactions already approved under this policy will support the sales of materials and equipment to build houses and townhouses in Guanacaste and for equipment to help refurbish the Gran Hotel Costa Rica in San Jose, a release from the agency said. 

"With Ex-Im Bank financing, Costa Rican companies will find U.S. capital goods such as machinery, services, and technologies more affordable, creating a win-win situation for both our economies," said Ex-Im Bank Director Dan Renberg, who recently met with government and business leaders in Costa Rica. 

The bank has long provided financing for Costa Rican companies interested in purchasing U.S. goods and services on favorable repayment terms, including Corporación Pipasa in San Jose and Constructura Hernan Solís in Heredia.  The Ex-Im Bank has approximately $20 million in exposure in Costa Rica, and authorized $7.8 million in financing for U.S. exports to the country in fiscal year 2001. 

"Thanks to Ex-Im Banks bank-to-bank insurance program, we are able to assist U.S. exporters gaining access to Costa Rican markets," said David Cooke, head of the trade finance unit at Allfirst Bank. "This would not have been possible without the ability to work with the Banco de Costa Rica under the auspices of the Export-Import Bank of the United States." 

Ex-Im Bank is an independent federal government agency that helps finance the sale of U.S. exports, primarily to emerging markets, by providing loans, guarantees and export credit insurance. In fiscal year 2001, Ex-Im Bank supported $12.5 billion of U.S. exports worldwide. 

All those cars out there
and they pick this one

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Hell hath no fury like that of a policeman scorned, they should say.

That’s what a couple of young men in Los Lagos de Heredia found out Wednesday. They are accused of having the gall to steal a car operated by the Judicial Investigating Organization. That happened in Tibás Tuesday.

Not a good move. About eight vehicles are stolen each day in Costa Rica. But investigators have a special interest in their own cars.

Pulling all the stops, police wre able to locate the car in a parking space under an Heredia house. Conveniently living in the dwelling were two men who quickly were handcuffed and dumped in the back of waiting police vehicles.

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Canadians ready to kick up their heels (sort of)

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The strong Canadian presence in Costa Rica will be on display Saturday as The Asociación Canadiense de Costa Rica, better known as the Canadian Club, holds its annual picnic.

The event is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Pedregal, San Antonio de Belen. the club has about 200 members, but many more are expected Saturday.

Canada Day, the reason for the picnic, actually is Monday, July 1, but the exceedingly pragmatic Canadians will celebrate on the weekend. Canada Day was called dominion day until 1982. It marks the July 1, 1867, promulgation of the British North America Act that created the Canadian federal government.

The club is not just a social organization, It’s Outreach Committee is a major player in the social welfare of Costa Rica, the members’ adopted country.

The committee provides funds for a school in La Carpio, a poor section with 35,000 inhabitants. It also supports the Salvation Army and its Hatillo shoe factory that provides footwear for the needy,

The club also makes a substantial donation to Guanacaste flood relief and a number of other community charities. the club said its donations are in the range of about 10 million colons this year. about $28,000.

One Canadian observer had this assessment of the picnic:

"One might be that we have a reputation for being quiet, polite, reserved, etc. . . . this is one celebration where Canadians could be said to uncharacteristically let their collective hair down.  Mind you, that doesn't mean we run amok since we do have dozens of kids in attendance."

Here are the technical details of the picnic. And Organizers would really like firm reservations by tonight.

A raffle ($20) will allow the winner to fly to any destination in Canada where Continental files. The club also has an extensive list of attractive prizes that will be included in the raffle. they range from tours, dinners to full-body massages. 

Visitors pick their dinner from steak or chicken plate (4,000 colons for members and 5,000 colons for non-members), hotdog plate (1,000 colons) and a vegetarian plate (2,000 colons). 

Free hot dogs will be served for registered children 14 and under. 

For more info: Bev and Henry Penner, 289-8172, or Irene and Moe Laframboise, 293-2739. Also, Jocelyne Mongrain, 282-5858

Anti-inspection crowd
on the move today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Opponents to vehicle inspection by Spanish-Costa Rican firm Riteve SyC are supposed to be on the march again today from the National Assembly to the Costa Rican Supreme Court building.

Marchers want to urge the court to quickly resolve three claims of unconstitutionality. Taxi drivers, auto mechanics and others oppose the inspection plan. 

Meanwhile, the firm has taken to the television to stress that it has strong Costa Rican interests and nearly all the people working for it are Costa Ricans.

One complaint against the firm was that it is Spanish. Actually it is a joint venture between a Spanish corporation and a Costa Rican company. But that does not stop taxi drivers from placing signs on their cars saying "No to Spanish inspections."

The firm didn’t start to advertise until the protestors marched from la Sabana Park to Casa Presidential. The firm has $22 million invested in 13 inspection stations and mobile inspection equipment.

The company has modified the 80 points of its inspection system in response to protests and demonstrations from vehicle operators. Now fewer points will result in a reinspection, the company said.

No fee has been established for the inspection yet. they probably will start at the end of next month, unless the court finds the law that set up the program to be unconstitutional. 

Environmental movie
at museum today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Museo Nacional de Costa Rica is inviting the public this morning to a showing of "El planeta: Vida o muerte" at the museum in the Bella vista Fortress just east of the downtown.

The showing is at 9 a.m. under the auspices of the museum, the World Wildlife Foundation and the Asociatión Preservacionista de Flora y Fauna Silvestre of Costa Rica.

The purpose of the movie, which consists of a series of short spots, is to promote reflection about the use of natural resources and the handling of waste, said the museum.

Young leaders are meeting

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

GUATEMALA, CITY, Guatemala — Young leaders from Central America and the Dominican Republic are set to gather in Guatemala City, today through Sunday for the Youth For Democracy Foundation's first ever General Assembly. 

The event is being convened under the auspices of  the Organization of American States' Unit for the Promotion of Democracy and the Central American Institute of Political Studies. 

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