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These stories were published Thursday, Aug. 29, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 171
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Roberto Trippar from Argentina takes careful aim before executing this cross-table shot.
 

Christian Burnham/A.M. Costa Rica
Tres bandas fame is on the table this weekend
By Christian Burnham
Of A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some of the finest billiards players in Latin America are chalking up at the Costa Rican Tennis Club in Sabana Sur. These hot shots, who hail from South America, Central America and the Caribbean, are here to compete in the Panamericano de Billar.

They are masters of a game called "tres bandas" or three cushions. It’s nothing like the pool commonly played at the local bar. Three balls are used — one red, one white, and one yellow — on a table without pockets. The object of the game is to smack one ball into both of the other balls and make contact with three banks, or sides of the table, on the same stroke. Not an easy proposition.

The top four finalists win a chance to compete in the Copa Mundial, the World Cup of billiards, an international tournament to be held in Randers, Denmark, Oct. 15.

The four-day tournament, which started Tuesday, will continue until Aug. 30. Games are played from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. in the gymnasium building behind the tennis courts. The event is open to the public. The admission is 1,500 colons (about $4.)

Up-and-coming pool sharks also get a chance to display their skill when the first annual Pan Panamericano de Billar for young people commences today. The tournament is comprised of eight youngsters, 20 years old and younger, from Costa Rica, Venezuela, and Colombia.

Rains continue to evict people from homes
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A week of steady afternoon downpours has turned the country into a wet sponge and has driven creeks, streams and rivers out of their banks.

The latest downpour Wednesday afternoon drove people from their homes in Zapote, Calle Morenos, Bajos Anonos and Tirrases, all areas of greater San José. Barrio Cuba also was affected.

In Los Guidos de Desamparados, a 76-year-old man, identified by the last name of Vindas Pérez lost his home when a nearby stream sheared off a wall and the house fell down.

In Precario Barrio Nuevo, Zapote, the Cruz Roja said that two persons, a man and a child, were buried when a mudslide ripped through their home. They were rescued.

The Comision Nacional de Emergencies has 

issued a warning covering the entire country.

People who have homes near streams and rivers were living in temporary shelters all over the country Wednesday night. Some 200 communities were said to be affected in one way or another.

The damage generally is inflicted on persons of lower economic status who live in areas where the waterways traditionally inflict damage.

The rains are expected to continue through the rest of the week, according to the Instituto Meteorológico Costarricense. The meteorologists blamed a flow of air from the southeast for bringing moisture-laden air to all areas of the country.

The moisture builds up until the skies open up right about 1 p.m. each afternoon in the central Valley. Mornings usually are pleasant and partly sunny.

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Anderson glitch blamed on lack of communication
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The people who process citizenship requests are blaming other agencies for a glitch that allowed Keith Anderson, a jailed U.S. citizen, to flirt briefly with being a Costa Rican.

Ricardo Chavarria, head of the naturalization department of the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones, said his office was unaware that Anderson was in prison awaiting an extradiction hearing when his office approved citizenship for Anderson a month ago.

Anderson has been called "the man most wanted by
Ricardo Chavarria
the I.R.S.," meaning the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. The raids Feb. 28, 2001, on the Anderson Ark & Associates organization and other related companies has been called the "largest crackdown in the history of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service." 

The main reason is that through his companies Anderson has encouraged thousands of people to set up trusts and other tax avoidance schemes that have been giving the I.R.S. headaches. The tax agency says they are illegal.

The naturalization department quickly reversed itself when it found out that Anderson was in deep legal trouble. The significance is that Costa Rica does not extradict its citizens, so being a citizen would have allowed Anderson to avoid being returned to the United States to face a litany of indictments.

Anderson’s legal team presented all the documents needed for naturalization last April, according to Chavarria. But the lawyers did not say anything about a pending extradiction action, he added. Anderson already was in jail then.

Neither did other police agencies, he said. Chavarria said that his office routinly made inquiries about Anderson to local police, the International Police Organization known as INTERPOL and to the archive section of the Judicial Investigating Organization.

None of these organizations replied that there would be any problem with Anderson’s citizenship, he said.

The intelligence officers quickly contacted the naturalization office after lawyers for the United States became aware that Anderson would try to avoid extradiction by claiming Costa Rican citizenship.

Ironically, the U.S. Embassy requested eight years ago that it no longer be kept informed of cases of U.S. citizens seeking Costa Rican citizenship, said Chavarria. Up until that time, his office would send a list of such persons to the embassy.

However embassy officials were faced with new privacy laws in the United States that restricted the collection of information on citizens.

Anderson built an elaborate business by telling people how to duck U.S. income tax. He combined aspects of religion and multi-level marketing with his program that involved selling instructional cassettes, holding seminars and eventually encouraging clients to invest their money with him in offshore trusts in Costa Rica. 

Saray Ramírez Vindas/A.M. Costa Rica
Costa Rican official shows official document of the type sent to national police agencies seeking criminal reports on would-be citizens.
 

He was arrested last February after being a fugitive for 11 months. He was found in a hotel near Residencial Los Arcos in the canton of Belén, Heredia, said police. 

U.S. tax officials called his tax-avoidance methods fraudulent. Plus he generated a lot more tax avoidance by offering commissions to individuals all over the United States who brought other people into the program. He was highly visible with a Web site  that is still working. 

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service raided Anderson’s Santa Ana compound and 14 other company locations in the United States Feb. 28, 2001. They did not arrest Anderson then because he was not present.

Anderson Ark built on the idea of using trusts to promote tax avoidance, and Anderson ran it mostly from Costa Rica, although he had a brother and associates in the States, most of whom were arrested in the raid more than a year ago. 

U.S. law requires citizens to report their involvement in offshore trusts. The law also criminalizes creating a trust or other offshore entity for the purpose of evading taxes or to hide assets. 

Many offshore trusts are phony because the trustee who is supposed to control a trust actually takes orders from the person who put the money down in the first place. 

Anderson is said to have gone one step further by telling clients that they could make tax deductions for normal living expenses and for elaborate and expensive seminars. 

The I.R.S. notes that there are many legitimate uses of trusts by U.S. citizens. Holding property for minors, charities or the mentally incompetent are some legitimate reasons, the I.R.S. said. 

Anderson’s latest operation was brought down by a two-year undercover investigation by an Internal Revenue agent, who said he gave the firm $100,000 in cash that the agent said had been earned illegally. Reports of sales pitches by Anderson and his associations said that he mixed evangelical Christianity with patriotism and termed the trusts he marketed "constitutional trusts," as if there were some protection of the trusts in that document. 

While he was a fugitive, Anderson conducted a few interviews by telephone to business reporters in the United States. He told one that "the criminal government of the United States" has deceived people into believing that the income tax laws were properly enacted when in his view they are illegal. 


 
Costa Rica again not too good or too bad on corruption index
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
with wire reports

Costa Rica managed to hold its place at 40 out of 102 countries that were judged for their citizens’ perceptions of corruption.

Costa Rica was in a tie with Jordan, Mauritius and South Korea, about the same place and company it was last year.

The evaluation was the annual report of Transparency International, a Berlin-based anti-corruption organization. The annual survey found that the worst corruption registered in Bangladesh and Nigeria.

Transparency Chairman Peter Eigen said the Corruptions Perceptions Index of 102 countries found rampant corruption, particularly in the world's poorest countries. "Political elites and cronies . . .  along with corrupt business people . . .

are trapping whole nations in poverty and hampering sustainable development," he said.

He noted that 70 countries scored less than five out of a possible 10 — with a high score indicating low preceived corruption — on the scale, which is based on surveys of business executives and defines corruption as the abuse of public office for private gain.

Corruption is perceived to be high in Indonesia, Kenya, Angola, Madagascar, Paraguay, Nigeria and Bangladesh, all of which scored less than two on the Transparency scale. Countries with a score of higher than nine were predominantly rich countries, namely Finland, Denmark, New Zealand, Iceland, Singapore and Sweden.

The United States was ranked 16th with a score of 7.7. The highest-ranking Latin American country was Chile, which was 17th with a score of 7.5. Costa Rica had a 4.5. 


 
US supports Nicaragua’s
fight against corruption

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Otto Reich, U.S. assistant secretary of state, is pledging Washington's support for President Enrique Bolaños's fight against corruption here.

Reich arrived in this country on Monday and met with President Bolaños for two hours of talks that also included regional development. 

Reich was quoted as saying that Nicaragua's victory over corruption will lead to increased investment in the country and more jobs for Nicaraguans.

Bolaños has accused former Nicaraguan President Arnoldo Aleman and 12 of his associates of money laundering, conspiracy, fraud and misuse of public funds.

Nicaragua’s congress has failed to decide whether to lift Aleman’s political immunity. Aleman heads Nicaragua's legislature, giving him immunity from criminal prosecution. He has denied the charges of corruption.

Delegates grapple
over Summit issues

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

JOHANNESBURG, Africa — Delegates to the U.N. Earth Summit here are expected to work Thursday on a number of issues that continue to divide rich and poor nations. 

Antigua delegate John Ashe, chairman of the group that focuses on finance and trade-related issues, said progress was made on trade and aid to developing countries. 

But, he says, the delegates remain deadlocked over farm subsidies. Developing nations complain subsidies to farmers in rich countries make it difficult for poor countries to compete in the world market. 

Conference participants failed to reach agreement Wednesday on access to clean water and proper sanitation, despite an appeal from former South African President Nelson Mandela. 

The United Nations says more than one billion people have no access to clean drinking water and almost 2.5 billion do not have adequate sanitation. It estimates more than two million people die as a result each year. A conference goal is to cut in half the number of people without access to clean water and sanitation by the year 2015. 

The United States says it will not agree to targets that are not binding, saying countries should commit to agreements that will improve clean water and sanitation. 

However, delegates did reach agreement on protecting the world's oceans and restoring depleted fish stocks. 

The main goal of the summit is to eliminate poverty and improve economic conditions while protecting the world's natural resources. 

The 10-day summit which began on Monday, is also to focus on health, energy, agriculture and biodiversity issues. 

The United Nations hopes to have an agreement on the entire plan before an estimated 100 world leaders arrive Monday.
 

USAID outlines 
assistance to Honduras 

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Agency for International Development released a report Wednesday detailing its assistance programs to Honduras.

The year’s assistance totals $33.1 million. USAID said its programs are helping Honduras in the areas of economic growth, environment and disaster assistance, family health, education, democracy, and Hurricane Mitch reconstruction.

USAID is nearing completion of its program to assist Honduras in meeting its reconstruction needs after Hurricane Mitch. In 1999, the U.S. government approved $962.8 million in assistance for Mitch Reconstruction. The Mitch Reconstruction activities focused on economic growth, public health, housing for dislocated families, education, environment, and disaster assistance, and accountability and governance.
 

Brazil hopes credit line
will rescue economy

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BRASILIA, Brazil — Government officials here hope a pledge by major banks in New York this week to maintain their credit lines to Brazil will help stabilize financial markets nervous over the country's economic future. But market confidence may be slow to return. 

Brazil’s top economic officials got the support they were seeking this week, when major U.S. and European banks promised to maintain their lending to Brazil at current levels. 

The pledge was made in New York Monday, following a meeting between representatives of 16 banks and Brazil's finance minister and central bank chief. The commitment by the banks is the latest effort to stave off a financial meltdown of South America's largest economy. It follows the Aug.7 announcement of a $30 billion loan to Brazil from the International Monetary Fund, its largest ever. 

But despite the size of the International Monetary Fund loan, financial markets remained nervous especially over Brazil's ability to meet its debt obligations. Brazil has a debt of $250 billion, with up to $10 billion coming due by the end of this year. Yet economic and political uncertainty have hampered efforts to renegotiate and roll-over the country's medium and long-term loans.

At the same time, market jitters have weakened Brazil's currency, the "real", which has lost one-fourth of its value against the dollar so far this year. This has made financing more expensive for Brazil. 

U.S. investigates missing
Cuban migrants

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. authorities are looking into whether more than 20 Cubans missing at sea for more than one week drowned while trying to reach U.S. shores illegally. 

Officials say the would-be immigrants have been missing since Aug. 18, when they left western Cuba's Bahia Honda region on a two-meter vessel. 

The U.S. Coast Guard says it learned of the vessel's disappearance last Thursday, four days after the boat left the communist-run island. 

A search for the Cubans was suspended after the remains of four people turned up off Florida's east coast. The bodies are now in possession of state medical examiners. 

Under U.S. law, Cubans who reach the U.S. shoreline are allowed to stay in the country. Those who are intercepted at sea are generally repatriated.

Neighbors’ encounter
leads to shooting

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators said that a neighborhood dispute Wednesday resulted in the death of a 35-year-old man when he took five bullets in the head, temple, body, left arm and back. They identified the dead man by the last name of Soto. 

They arrested a neighbor who had engaged Soto in an argument shortly before the shooting,. He was identified as Benjamin Chavez. Both men lived in La Rita de Guápiles.

Serial rape suspect
held in San José

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man wanted for investigation in at least 10 rapes turned up in Parque Central in downtown San José Wednesday, and agents promptly arrested him.

He was identified by his last names of Beckford Davila, and his age was given as 27.

The Judicial Investigating Organization agents said that he is the man who for a year was offering employment to young women in the downtown area and then taking them to another location where he would threaten them with a knife, rape them and steal their belongings.

Investigators said that the last victim left marks on the man’s face which helped them identify him. They said they also found belongings of some of the women at houses in Cartgago and San José that will be used in evidence against the man.
 

Education scam
results in arrest

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man who said he was a Ministerio de Educación official would promise supplies and construction materials to employees at various schools, obtain 50,000 to 55,000 colons for gas money and then vanish.

This scam has been going on all over the country, said agents with the Judicial Investigating Organization.

But agents from Pérez Zeledón over the weekend, encountered a suspect in a bank in Heredia and promptly arrested him. They said his name was Miguel Bolaños Sánchez and invited anyone with experience in this type of scam to contact them at 771-3449 or 785-0300.
 
 
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Canadian stock scam leads to police search here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators descended on a Sabana Sur office building Wednesday in search of clues to the location of an estimated $40 million that is believed to be part of a major scam that took place within a religious sect in Canada.

The agents searched Costa Rica International Sport and plan to continue search today seeking documents. Agents also said they were looking into a corporation called Montaña Mágica del Sur that was believed connected to the betting company.

There is no statement by police that said the betting company did anything wrong, only that information is being sought and that the firm might have received money from Canada.

The building searched recently opened and had been in construction for at least two years. It is just a block west of the towering Contraloría de la República building.

Agents also said they have frozen more than a million dollars in accounts at Costa Rican national banks that are believed to be involved with the Canadian case. In fact, it was inquires from the bank security officers that provided police with information about the links between Costa Rican and Canada.

The Canadian case centers on Salim Mohammen Damji, who has been identified as a dentist in Ontario, Canada. For several years Damji offered shares of stock in his firm, Strategic Trading Systems Instant White and Jem Holdings.
Investigators said that he violated a number of 

 

security laws and also promised returns to investors up to 2,000 percent. The stock he sold was not registered, was not accompanied by a prospectus and was marketed by unregistered persons, according to a court complaint in Ontario.

A filing with the Ontario courts seeking to recover some of the money said that communications by Damji were primarily made to persons of the
Ismaili faith, an Islamic sect.

"The Ismaili community is a close knit one and the communications were made by Damji with the intention that they would be repeated in the community by investors and brokers, lead to others in the community becoming aware of the representations and lead to others relying upon the representations in their investments," said the complaint. 

Investors were told that the company manufactured a teeth whitener and would soon go public, only to be snatched up by Colgate, the toothpaste giant.

Canadian news reports said that perhaps as many as 6,000 investors all over the world put money into the company beginning in August 2000. Canadian police arrested Damji April 28, and the search is now on to locate the company’s assets. Police said they believe the total amount obtained by STS Instant White was about $100 million.

Quake hits near border

An earthquake in the 4.3 magnitude range took place off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica Tuesday about 5:25 p.m. near the border with Nicaragua.


 
Land for Coca cultivation reported decreasing
By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new report issued by the United Nations shows that for the first time in years, the amount of land in Colombia used for illicit cultivation of the coca bush, which is used to make cocaine, has declined.

The report, by the U.N. Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, showed a decline in Colombian coca cultivation from 402,610 acres in August 2000 to about 358,150 acres in November 2001. These figures reflect a global decline from about 545,870 acres to 521,170 acres.

But in Peru and Bolivia, the U.N. numbers were not as encouraging. Peru showed an increase in the area under illicit cultivation from 106,210 acres in 2000 to 113,620 acres in 2001. According to the U.S. government’s 2002 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, however, net coca cultivation in Peru amounted to only 83,980 acres in 2001.

Estimates for Bolivia (taken from U.S. government figures) reflect an increase of the area under cultivation from 36,062 acres in 2000 to 49,153 acres in 2001. Virtually all of the world’s cocaine is produced by countries in the Andean region.

The 285-page report, called "Global Illicit Drug Trends 2002," estimated that 185 million people around the world consume illicit drugs. This includes 147 million for cannabis, 33 million for amphetamines, seven million for ecstasy, 13 million for cocaine, and 13 million for opiates (of which nine million are for heroin).

Among its findings, the report said cocaine abuse decreased in the United States, but increased in South America, Africa, and Europe. Ecstasy abuse increased in the Americas, Southeast Asia, and in some parts of Europe.

The report said that in 2000, cannabis remained by far the most widely trafficked drug worldwide. 

More than half the cannabis herb seized worldwide was in North America (most of it in Mexico) and nearly a quarter in southern Africa, much of it in South Africa.

Worldwide drug abuse continues to be more widespread among males than females. The report found, for instance, that 83 percent of drug abusers in Bolivia were male, while in Colombia the figure was 80 percent, and in Chile 73 percent. The highest figures for male prevalence among drug abusers were found in some traditional Asian societies that the report placed in the 90-percent range.

Reported use of amphetamine-type stimulants in the Americas showed an upward trend, the report said. This is due to increasing use of both amphetamines and ecstasy. Growing levels of ecstasy use were reported in Panama and Canada, though ecstasy use was also reported to be spreading across the Caribbean and Central America, in some Andean countries, and also further south to Chile and Argentina.

In outlining the need for this report, the authors said the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks against the United States "have drawn renewed attention from the intelligence community and policy-makers to the link between drug trafficking and global security issues."

The head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration spoke of a "deadly, symbiotic relationship between the illicit drug trade and international terrorism," the report’s authors said. "We see in [drug trafficking] groups today a merger of international organized crime and terror."

In addition, the report’s authors noted that the presidents of the United States and Russia said in a joint statement in November 2000 "health and well-being of individuals and to international security as a whole." The authors added that "the drug trade is one of the principle sources of financial support for international terrorism."

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