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Figueres Resigns as Head of World Economic Forum
Former Costa Rican President José María Figueres Olsen has resigned as chief executive officer of the World Economic Forum (WEF) after confirming that he received more than $900,000 for consulting services to the French telecommunications company Alcatel, the forum said Friday.


José María Figueres Olsen
President of Costa Rica 1994 to 1998 and son of three time Costa Rican president José María Figueres Ferrer - affectionately known to Costa Ricans as "Don Pepe"  - 1948 to-1948 - 1953 to 1958 - 1970 to 1974, was on one of Costa Rica's most influential leaders, as head of the Founding Junta of the Second Republic of Costa Rica.

See José María Figueres Olsen, The Man and His Legacy

 
 

WEF Spokesman Andre Schneider said the organization, which hosts an annual meeting of business and government leaders in the Swiss Alps, learned through news reports about the payment and that Figueres also maintained a contractual relationship with another company for 2 1/2 years while he held a post in the management of the forum.

Figueres "presented his resignation with immediate effect. His resignation was accepted," Schneider said.

Figueres, is now the third former Costa Rican president affected by a scandal over contractor payments.

Former President Miguel Angel Rodríguez resigned earlier this month as head of the Organization of American States (OAS) over other alleged payments from Alcatel; he was placed under house detention on his return home pending prosecutors' investigation of the case and yesterday ordered to preventive detention (jail) for six months after an appeals court overturned the lower court decision. Former President Rafael Angel Calderón was detained last week during investigation of alleged payments on a Finnish contract.

Both Rodríguez and Calderón, as with Figueres, have denied wrongdoing.

In a statement Wednesday, Figueres acknowledged receiving the money but he said the payments were legal and were made after he left the presidency.

He proclaimed his innocence of any wrongdoing in Costa Rica but said he decided to step down for the sake of the forum until he can clear his name.

"I am absolutely certain that the allegations leveled against me will vanish in the very near future," he said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. He said he was a victim of "pre-electoral political slander" in Costa Rica.

Schneider said that Figueres acknowledged violating the rules of the forum by not declaring that he was being retained as a consultant when he took the post and while he was working at the forum.

In his letter of resignation, which Figueres, he apologized to forum founder Klaus Schwab for "this oversight" of failing to inform the organization that he had entered the consultancy "many months before joining the Forum."

The payments to Figueres were first reported by Costa Rica's Channel 7 "Telenoticias" in a Tuesday night broadcast. The station said they were related to some us$2.7 million that Alcatel allegedly spent in negotiating contracts with the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) which also operates the monopoly on telecommunications and electrical energy in the country.

It said that Alcatel had offered to pay about $900,000 each to Figueres, to his former adviser Roberto Hidalgo and to Carmen Valverde, until recently the secretary of the Partido Liberacion Nacional (PLN) or "Green Party", the party that former Costa Rican President, Nobel Prize winner and presidential hopeful in the 2006 presidential election, Oscar Arias belongs to.

Valverde was deputy in the Legislative Assembly during the Figueres administration and also an important figure in Figueres' post presidential work, is the also the sister of Alcatel's former president in Costa Rica, Edgar Valverde, who was dismissed after local news media said he was involved in payments to local political figures and is now in preventive detention in the San Sebastian jail while the Fiscalía (prosecutor's office) investigated.

Hidalgo told Channel 7 that Figueres had been involved in working on technological development. "They were private contracts, totally legal," he said.

Figueres served as Costa Rican president from 1994 to 1998, following Calderón and before Rodríguez. A

In the statement released by his lawyer, he said that in 2000 "I accepted an offer (from Hidalgo) to give advice on the spread of technologies in telecommunications."  He said he stopped the collaboration in October 2003.

He joined the World Economic Forum in 2000 and served as managing director until he was appointed co-chief executive officer last year.

 


José María Figueres Olsen, The Man and His Legacy

- Date of Birth: 24 December 1954, in San José

- Son of three time Costa Rican president José María Figueres Ferrer - affectionately known to Costa Ricans as "Don Pepe"  - 1948 to-1948 - 1953 to 1958 - 1970 to 1974, was on one of Costa Rica's most influential leaders, as head of the Founding Junta of the Second Republic of Costa Rica.

- Industrial Engineering Degree from US Military Academy at West Point, USA (1979).

- Minister of Trade and Minister of Agriculture of Costa Rica during the Oscar Arias Administration (19881990)

- Masters in Public Administration (Mason Fellow), John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University (1991)

- President of Costa Rica 1994-1998

- As a leader of his country he undertook important transformations to better prepare Costa Rica for the global economy, by addressing a comprehensive sustainable development platform combining sound macroeconomic indicators, strategic human development investments, and a strong alliance with nature. He was one of the main sponsors of the Central American Alliance for Sustainable Development, signed by the regional leaders in 1994.

- International distinctions/awards include Kew Gardens (England, 1995), Botanical Research Institute of Texas (1996), the 1998 Global Environment Facility Leadership Award (GEF), Recognition of the American Jewish Association (1998), Freedom Award of the Max Schmidheiny Foundation-U. of St. Gallen, Switzerland (1998), and the Leadership Award from the Climate Institute (1998). Received the Condecoración Jose Matias Delgado from the Government of El Salvador (1999).

- Has participated as Member of the Board of Directors of the World Resources Institute (USA), World Wildlife Fund (USA), Botanical Research Institute of Texas, Global Environmental Action (Japan), Stockholm Environment Institute (Sweden), Vice President of the Board of Leaders for Environment and Development, based in London, United Kingdom. Member of the Senior Advisors Committee of the Global Environment Facility of the World Bank. President of FUNDES International between 1998 and 2000.

- Founded the Costa Rica Foundation for Sustainable Development (San José, Costa Rica). With support from the AVINA Foundation, the organization has promoted technological application initiatives to enhance the quality of life of Latin American people within a framework of sustainability. The foundation has sponsored innovative programs such as LINCOS (Little Intelligent Communities), APVE (an initiative on new alternatives on Clean Transportation, mainly Electric Vehicles) and CENTAIRE (Central American Center for Air Quality Monitoring, Assessment and Management Technologies). Academic sector, non profit and social organizations, and private sector partners have joined the foundation in launching these programs.

- Upon termination of the administration in 1998, Figueres attended numerous international events and addressed lectures and conferences on sustainable development and information technology issues in countries such as Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, México, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Perú, Argentina, Chile, United States of America, the Dominican Republic, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Jordan, Germany, France, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Sri Lanka, Japan, Egypt, Bulgaria.

- Member of the Board of Digital Nations Consortium (since 2000), a new program launched by MITs Media Lab in the USA.

- Figueres was appointed the United Nations Secretary Generals Special Representative on Information and Communication Technologies in November 2000. In this capacity, he heads the United Nations Information and Communication Technologies Advisory Group.  José María Figueres - a leader acclaimed for advancing the use of digital technology for development of his country - leads a team of experts drawn from the private and public sectors and countries of the North as well as the South. The Advisory Group is charged by the Secretary-General with drawing up the specific modalities for Information and Communication Technologies Task Force on the basis of guidelines set by the Economic and Social Council in July. The Task Force serves as a catalyst for bringing together international agencies, governments and private businesses and foundations in harnessing the potential of technology for development for all. The Advisory Group will advise the Secretary General in consultation with governments, the private sector, foundations and multilateral development institutions on building a strategic partnership with the private sector to bridge the global digital divide. To that end, Figueres coordinates with Advisory Group members recommendations as to the structure and necessary support mechanisms of the Information and Communication Technology Task Force. This Task Force will be the response to the call for action in bridging the digital divide prominently featured in Secretary-General Kofi Annans Millennium.


- Since late 2000, he became Managing Director of the World Economic Forum, overseeing the Centre for the Global Agenda, based in Geneva, Switzerland. The WEF is one of the most influential private organizations in the world. The World Economic Forum is an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world. The Forum provides a collaborative framework for the worlds leaders to address global issues, engaging particularly its corporate members in global citizenship. The organizations members represent the worlds 1,000 leading companies, along with 200 smaller businesses, many from the developing world, that play a potent role in their industry or region. However, members are more than just influential, talented and powerful people. Many are also innovative and inspiring individuals who challenge conventional thinking and are committed to making the world a better place. The Forum also works closely with communities of leaders from academia, government, religion, the media, non-governmental organizations and the arts.


- Figueres key responsibilities have included the organization of the Annual Meeting, which takes place every year in Davos, Switzerland, bringing together people from more than 100 countries. This world renowned event gathers Heads of State and Government and prominent business leaders and is a very instrumental forum to advance the global agenda in current political, economic, social and environmental issues. In addition, Mr. Figueres has to participate in regional economic and business summits in different parts of the world. In 2003 Mr. Figueres became Co-CEO of the World Economic Forum.

- In March 2004 he was appointed CEO of the WEF


 
   
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