AMCostaRica©

Vol.19 No.823 Friday Edition, August 23, 2019            First news page











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Welmer Ramos-Gonzalez former Minister of the Economy,from 2014 to 2017, is currently a deputy of congress, for the Acción Ciudadana party (PAC). / Asamblea Legislativa courtesy photo.

Former Minister and current Congressman is investigated by authorities



By the A.M. Costa Rica staff


The Ministry of Economy announced on Thursday, that agents of the Judicial Investigation Organization, raided the Ministry's facilities, looking for more pieces of evidence in a case linked to former Minister Welmer Ramos-Gonzalez. Who is currently a deputy of congress, for the Acción Ciudadana party (PAC).

In a statement, Ministry officials said: "because it is an open investigation where a judicial process is carried out, we cannot refer to the case."

According to the Prosecutor's office, the search was done in the office of Commission to Promote Competition, know as Coprocom, to gather more evidence for the investigation against Deputy Ramos-Gonzalez. He is suspected of the alleged crime of prevarication, also known as skirting around the truth, while he was the Minister of the Economy from 2014 to 2017.

The legal term prevarication is a crime that consists of an authority issuing an arbitrary resolution in an administrative or judicial matter knowing that said resolution is unfair and contrary to the law.

According to Prosecutor's office, the case was opened with a complaint filed in 2018 that "indicates facts of 2015, when allegedly, the minister would have nullified a penalty that Coprocom imposed on a company, which was investigated for alleged practices contrary to healthy competition."

This is the second investigation against deputy Ramos-Gonzalez.

On Wednesday, the Prosecutor's Ethics office opened a complaint against Ramos-Gonzalez. He is suspected of committing the crime of traffic of influence, in the controversial case of cement importation from China, known as El Cementazo.

The legal term Traffic of Influence, or Influence Peddling, is the illegal term of using one's influence in government or connections with persons in authority to obtain favors or preferential treatment for another, usually in return for payment.

According to the Attorney General's office, Ramos-Gonzalez during his work as Minister of Economy was linked to the modification of some regulations. These changes in the laws made it easier for businessman Juan Carlos Bolaños to import Chinese cement, with a loan from the Bank of Costa Rica.

In these two cases, the deputy Ramos-Gonzalez made a public statement stating that he will resign his Parliamentary Immunity rights, but he will not resign from his job as a deputy.

The legal term Parliamentary Immunity, also known as Legislative Immunity, is a system in which members of congress are granted partial immunity from prosecution.

In December 2017, Ramos-Gonzalez made another public statement in which he said that if there were any resolution of the Prosecutor's Ethics office against him, he would resign.

Based on Ramos-Gonzalez's statement, President Carlos Alvarado said during a press conference that "in my opinion on this particular issue, Mr. Welber has to honor his commitment made in December 2017," referring to the possible resignation of the deputy.

Related to the Cementazo case, as A.M. Costa Rica has been reporting, in June the General Prosecutor 's office gave a brief on the advance of that case.

The Prosecutor said that during approximately 20 months, the agents had conducted an investigation opening 22 criminal cases parallel to the main file and the examination of 50,000 files creating a list of 10 accused people.

Additionally, after analyzing the evidence they requested five operations with raids on 14 sites, have seized 18 records, and interviewed 69 witnesses.

The Cementazo case is a political scandal of suspicion of corruption that was revealed by the media in 2017 where a loan of $31.5 million from the Bank of Costa Rica to the businessman Juan Carlos Bolaños was denounced for irregularities.

The case gained traction after the disclosure of a recorded audio conversation between Bolaños and the manager of the bank surnamed Quesada.

The investigations have uncovered an alleged case of influence peddling and questions the employer's relationship with members of the government, including deputies, the Supreme Court of Justice authorities and the presidency, as well as members of different political parties.

In summary, the bank loaned Bolaños $31.5 million in November 2015 to import cement from China.

According to the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, it is unknown what the entrepreneur did with $12.3 million that he did not use. He kept $12.3 million in his accounts for six months before returning it to the bank, the investigation disclosed.

Other public banks also made loans to Bolaños, who managed to obtain $45.5 million.

Bolaños was arrested on November 2017 and detained until on May 2019 when a judge ordered house arrest while the investigations continue.

According to the Attorney General, Emilia Navas Aparicio, "it is a complex case, not only because of the number of suspects but also because of the type of corruption that is being investigated. And, because it involves the government authorities."

"The people can rest assured the case is well attended, adequately addressed and processed and will be resolved with the corresponding requirement, at the time when the first phase of the investigation ends. We had to work day and night to recover time that had been lost by the inaction of the past," said Navas.

Currently, the Attorney General's office is investigating $36 million that appears to be refunds of money made in 46 transactions.




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Should the Prosecutor speed up the investigation because it may involve government officials? We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to news@amcostarica.com



















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