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These stories were pubished Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 243
Jo Stuart
About us

Downtown is alive
with Christmas spirit

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is one party after another these days in San José.

The municipality revived the tradition of the paseo navideño Monday night. Pounds of confetti ended up in the air as a form of seasons greeting that united citizens and downtown merchants. The event took place at the junction of Avenida Central and Calle Central. The musical group Editus was scheduled to play Monday, and there is a steady stream of such groups through Dec. 22. The one exception is Saturday when the Festival de la Luz parades through the downtown. 

Earlier Saturday the Museos del Banco Central  hosts the 3rd cultural festival in the Plaza de la Cultura from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The event is the Festival de la Serpiente in honor of the artistic group Bocaracá, which also happens to be the name of a snake here.  Entrance and artistic materials are free, the bank said, and an exhibition of snakes will be included.

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Even after you become a leading human rights figure like Alberto Brenes Cordoba, you find that birds have no respect. Statue is at Corte Suprema de Justicia.
Anderson's Ark trio face more charges in U.S.
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Keith Anderson, Wayne Anderson and a third man also involved in Anderson’s Ark tax scheme in Costa Rica now face additional charges.

Eileen J. O’Connor, assistant attorney general to the Justice Department’s Tax Division, announced Monday that Keith Anderson, 61, a former resident of Hoodsport, Wash. and Santa Ana, Costa Rica, Wayne Anderson, 63, a resident of Fresno, Calif., and Richard Marks, 59, a resident of Los Osos, Calif. were arraigned on charges of wire fraud, mail fraud, conspiracy to launder money internationally, and six counts of international money laundering. Also charged, but not yet arraigned, is a man by the name of George Burke a/k/a George Kof, a/k/a George Chester, a/k/a Jim Cody. 

On Dec. 10, 2002, an 87-count indictment was filed charging Keith Anderson, Richard Marks, and Wayne Anderson, together with Karolyn Grosnickle, 60, a resident of Hoodsport, Wash.; Richard Grosnickle, 62, a resident of Hoodsport, Washington; Pamela Moran, 41, a resident of Montrose, Colo.; James Moran, 54, a resident of Montrose, Colo.; Tara Lagrand, 50, a resident of Naples, Fla.; Gary Kuzel, 54, a resident of Woodbridge, Ill.; and Lynden Bridges, 57, a resident of Wheat Ridge, Colo., with conspiracy to defraud the United States government in connection with the marketing of illegal tax shelters that placed customers’ funds offshore in Costa Rica. 

In a separate count, Keith Anderson, Richard Marks, Wayne Anderson, Karolyn Grosnickle, Richard Grosnickle, Pamela Moran, and James Moran were charged with a conspiracy to engage in a wire and mail fraud scheme in connection with selling investments in a joint venture called "Tax Magic." 

The defendants are also charged with 65 counts of aiding and assisting the filing of false income tax returns in connection with tax returns prepared by the AAA accountants. The defendants were also charged with 10 counts of mail fraud and nine counts of wire fraud. And finally, the indictment seeks the forfeiture of the Morans’ home in Montrose, Colo., and their 2000 Jeep. The indictment alleges that this property was purchased with proceeds from the sales of "Tax Magic" investments. 

On Dec. 4 a superseding indictment was returned which added George Burke to count two, the conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud in connection with one of the AAA tax shelters, and charged Keith Anderson and George Burke with mail and wire fraud stemming from their operation of an investment program sold to AAA clients called the "Loan 4 program." 

The superseding indictment alleges that from 

1997 through 2001, Keith Anderson and George Burke solicited and received approximately $21 million from AAA members which they represented was to be invested at a rate of return of 4 percent every six weeks. It is alleged that the so-called "Loan 4" program was a sham. 

The superseding indictment also charges Keith Anderson, Wayne Anderson, and George Burke with conspiracy to commit money laundering and international money laundering. It is alleged that from 1997 through 2002, after the defendants received funds from AAA members that the AAA members believed were going to be invested, the defendants wire transferred these funds to AAA accounts in Costa Rica in order to promote AAA’s Look Back program. 

Instead of being invested, these funds, totaling approximately $28 million were circulated in and among several Costa Rican bank accounts in order to give the appearance that the AAA entity, La Maquina Blanca, was funding AAA members’ investment loans as part of the AAA Look Back program. 

Keith Anderson’s brother, Wayne, was convicted earlier in a Sacramento money laundering trial relating to Anderson's Ark & Associates. Wayne Anderson was sentenced on Nov. 14, 2002, to serve 59 months in prison, to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release, and a fine of $25,000. 

Wayne Anderson was also ordered to forfeit an additional $100,000 and a new motor home that were seized in the course of the investigation. Richard Marks, 59, formerly of Sacramento, Calif., was also convicted in the Sacramento trial. Marks was sentenced on Nov. 14, 2002, to serve 81 months in prison, to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release, and a fine of $25,000. 

A third defendant in the Sacramento case, Karolyn Grosnickle of Hoodsport, Wash., pleaded guilty to money laundering prior to trial, and was sentenced before Judge Karlton on Oct. 1, 2002, to serve 26 months in prison. 

The maximum penalty for wire and mail fraud is 20 years in jail and/or a $250,000 fine. The maximum penalty for conspiracy to launder money and money laundering is 20 years in jail and or a $500,000 fine. 

Keith Anderson operated Anderson’s Ark & Associates in Santa Ana where he would put on educational seminars stressing his view that the U.S. tax laws were illegal. The seminars mixed religion with views that the U.S. income tax system was illegal.

He was arrested and his efforts to obtain Costa Rican citizenship were annulled shortly before he was extradited to the United States last year for an initial trial.


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Some 250 cameras
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By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police officials unveiled their plan to keep watch on key areas of the city by means of television Monday.

Right now some seven cameras are following the 

activities of citizens. These cover much of the pedestrian boulevard. Some 250 cameras are planned for the capital with additional networks going up in smaller cities, officials said Monday.

In addition, the Municipalidad de San José soon will begin its alarm response service that was announced last February. Municipal police will run the operation that competes with private firms.

It's watching you!

Eventually, the camera monitoring operation will employ up to 100 police officers watching some 200 slow-scan computer monitors. The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, its Fuerza Pública, Canal 7 Teletica and Radiográfica Costarricense S.A. are involved in the project.

Channel 7 has been monitoring key intersections for several months with cameras.

The police cameras will record events for later playback as evidence.

Rain still predicted
for Caribbean coast

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Do not let the bright skies and steady winds fool you. The possibility of heavy rain still exists.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said Monday that persons on the Caribbean slope and in the northern zone should be alert to possible flooding. The weather institute is predicting rains there for the rest of the week.

Some of the rain may spread to the capital, but the outlook for Guanacaste is sunny and warm during the day. The central Pacific and south Pacific can expect isolated afternoon showers, the weather experts said.

India’s tech job boom
not likely to end

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The technology outsourcing business in India is expected to boom despite global job cuts in the information-technology industry. 

The international consulting group Gartner says India will continue to witness huge growth in technology outsourcing, despite an outcry in countries such as Britain and the United States about job losses. 

In recent years, scores of multi-national corporations have moved software development and back-office work to developing countries such as India. That has prompted huge protests from labor unions in Britain and proposals to ban outsourcing in the United States. 

But in its latest predictions for the IT industry for 2004, the Gartner group says the process of moving jobs from the developed world to countries like India is irreversible. "Overwhelmingly, companies are moving ahead with their plans regardless of the backlash, it is just too compelling an opportunity for them with the cost pressures they are under, profitability pressures they are under," said Gartner vice president Partha Iyengar. 

The outsourcing business took off in India when multi-nationals started moving work, such as help calls to payroll and insurance claims, to Indian cities. This year, outsourcing services accounted for $14 billion in India and is expected to quadruple in the next few years. 

But Partha Iyengar said the area of what is called IT services is growing more rapidly. "IT services space, which is really where all of the current success of India is, is when companies want to develop new application systems or applications for internal use whether it is to handle their business systems, shipping systems or client relationship management systems etc," he said. "A lot of that development activity has been outsourced to India." 

As result, nearly 20 percent of jobs in information-technology services are expected to move from developed countries to developing ones. 

Not only is India known for the skill of its computer and software engineers, but the average professional wage is less than one-quarter of what it is in the developed world.

India's outsourcing sector grew by about 60 percent in the past financial year and is expected to grow at nearly the same pace this year. The sector accounts for about 20 percent of India's foreign exchange earnings. 

Cut in power anticipated

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

If you are reading this you probably are not in San Rafael de Escazú or at least not in Los Laureles where the Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz is doing work today. The power company said that electricity will be out from 7:30 a.m. to about 3 p.m.
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Trade official predicts bright future with pact
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S.-Central American Free Trade Agreement will yield broad benefits, and U.S. trade negotiators and their Central American counterparts must work together to forge an agreement that advances everyone's interests, said Regina Vargo, assistant U.S. trade representative.

Trade officials from the United States and Central America convened here Monday for the ninth and final round of the talks, which are scheduled to conclude Dec. 16.

In remarks Monday to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, Vargo said that the proposed accord between the United States and Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua is an important part of the Bush administration's efforts to foster a prosperous, secure and democratic hemisphere. She outlined the importance of the agreement, progress made in the trade negotiations to date, and the challenges that remain as the talks near completion.

Ms. Vargo said that U.S. trade with Central America is significant, potentially reaching $25 billion this year. She said that the nations of Central America have been excellent trading partners with the United States. She identified the goal of the negotiations as bolstering this important commercial relationship by crafting an agreement that "lowers tariffs, opens markets and establishes state-of-the-art rules" governing commercial transactions.

Ms. Vargo said that the expanded two-way trade fostered by the pact will support jobs in both the United States and Central America, but said the benefits of the accord will be broader than commercial and economic gains.

"These negotiations are about more than trade," she said. "Free trade has an important role to play in strengthening the rule of law and democracy in the region with its focus on openness and transparency."

Ms. Vargo said that negotiators have been working "around the clock" since the October 2003 

conclusion of the most recent round of talks in Houston.

These intensive efforts, she said, have yielded important advances such as agreement on less-sensitive agricultural issues. However, she cautioned that challenges remain in addressing more sensitive agricultural issues, as well as issues in the areas of services, labor and the environment.

Vargo said that trade negotiators have agreed that no product will be left out of agricultural discussions, but pointed out that 15-year phase-out periods will be included in the agreement in an attempt to ensure appropriate treatment of more sensitive products.

The assistant trade representative said the U.S. will work toward a similarly comprehensive approach to services. In this area, she called on Costa Rica in particular to consider a greater opening of its telecommunications sector.

Ms. Vargo said that Costa Rica needs a more efficient telecommunications sector, and she indicated that "we are going to have to work on the issue to have some openness."

On the subject of addressing labor and the environment within the trade pact, Ms. Vargo said the United States would follow guidelines established by Congress in the Trade Act of 2002.

Vargo said the important question before negotiators is how best to enforce existing labor law in Central America in an effective manner. She said that enhancing the enforcement of labor laws will be a "continuing effort on all sides that can yield higher standards across the region."

As U.S. and Central American negotiators meet this week to address remaining issues and conclude the pact, Vargo emphasized the need for a cooperative approach. "The key is we need to work together," she said. The United States, she added, "seeks an agreement that advances everyone's interest."

Any proposed agreement would have to be ratified by the U.S. Congress and the legislative bodies of the Central American states.

U.S. dollar weakens further in international trading
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. dollar hit a record low against the euro of $1.22 in Monday's trading and dropped to an 11-year low against the British pound and a three-year low against the Japanese yen. 

Experts said currency traders were disappointed by Friday's report that the U.S. economy created fewer-than-expected jobs and worried that the U.S. central bank might signal an eventual interest rate hike when its government body meets Tuesday.  Interest rates are at a 45-year low. 

Low interest rates are helping the U.S. economy recover from a slump, but they mean investors can get higher returns in other countries, which reduces demand for the U.S. dollar. 

Last August, the U.S. Federal Reserve said it would maintain the low interest policy for a "considerable period." Analysts say if the central bankers keep that policy at Tuesday's meeting, the dollar could weaken further. 

The weaker U.S. currency boosts U.S. exports by making U.S. made-goods cheaper for foreigners. 

Expensive Medicare overhaul is controversial
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Millions of senior citizens in the United States rely on a government program to subsidize their health care. Now that program, known as Medicare, is getting a costly and controversial overhaul. After years of political warfare in Washington, the most sweeping changes ever in the Medicare system have been signed into law.

Senior citizens have complained for years that Medicare does not pick up enough of their medical bills, particularly the high cost of prescription drugs. They say they worked hard and paid taxes for decades, only to watch their savings and pensions depleted by health care expenses.

Politicians tried and failed numerous times to reform the system. But they were unable to come up with a formula the government could afford. Finally, the Bush administration pushed its version through Congress. It was a big political win for the Republicans and the White House. 

But as he signed the legislation, Geroge  Bush called the passage of the bill a victory for America's seniors. "With this law, we are giving older Americans better choices and more control over their health care, so they can receive the modern medical care they deserve," he said.

This is the most far-reaching overhaul of Medicare since the program began in 1965, as part of the ambitious domestic agenda of then-President Lyndon Johnson. Though primarily designed to 

help the elderly, it also provides benefits to some Americans with disabilities.

The price tag for modernizing the program is huge: $400 billion over the next 10 years. As he prepared to sign the reform measure into law, in an auditorium filled with supporters, the president said it is worth the cost. "Our nation has the best health care system in the world, and we want our seniors to share in the benefits of that system. Our nation has made a promise, a solemn promise to America's seniors," he said. "We have pledged to help our citizens find affordable medical care in the later years of life."

Critics say the reform measure is flawed. They contend it is much too expensive, and does more to put money in the pockets of drug companies and health care providers than to help senior citizens.

Many Democrats in Congress, long the champions of the Medicare program created four decades ago by a Democratic president, are particularly incensed. They say the Republicans co-opted their issue, and pushed the legislation through with the 2004 election in mind, hoping that seniors will support President Bush's bid for another term.

Senior citizens form the most active voting bloc of any age group in the United States. They also comprise a large portion of the population in several states that could play a crucial role in next year's election, including Florida, the state that ultimately determined the outcome of the 2000 presidential race.

Presidential commission seeks the end of Castro
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A U.S. commission is expected next year to suggest ways the United States can hasten the removal of Cuban President Fidel Castro without using force. 

The White House said in a statement Monday the commission will issue recommendations by May 1 for quickly bringing a "peaceful, near-term end" to Castro's dictatorship in Communist-ruled Cuba. 

The statement said the commission will also suggest ways to create democratic institutions and respect for human rights and the rule of law, as well as a free market economy. 

The statement said modernizing infrastructure and meeting basic needs such as health care and 

education will also be addressed. The recommendations will be made in a report to President George Bush. 

Bush announced plans in October for creating a commission to assist a free Cuba. He said the body would "plan for the happy day when Castro's regime is no more and democracy comes to the island." 

The commission, comprised of senior officials from the Bush administration, held its first meeting on Friday. The United States tried to remove Castro by less than peaceful means for years. Perhaps the most disasterous attempt was the Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961in which the United States used 1,400 Cuban surrogates to invade the island. The forces loyal to Fidel Castro won the battle.

Jo Stuart
About us
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