Tuesday 06 October 2009
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Calderón Found Guilty In The Caja-Fischel Case

The three judges of the Tribunal Segundo Circuito Judicial de Goicoechea Monday afternoon found former Costa Rican president, Rafael Angel Calderón Fournier, guilty of embezzlement in the Caja-Fischel case and sentenced him to five years prison.

Six of the other seven accused were also found guilty and sentenced to served between two and five years each, only one being found not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The former president of the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS), Eliseo Vargas, was sentenced to five years; Walter Reiche Fischel, former president of the Corporación Fischel, was sentenced to four years; Gerardo Bolaños Alpízar, former director of the CCSS, Juan Carlos Sánchez and Marvin Barrantes, were each sentenced to three years and six years; all for embezzlement.

Randall Vargas, former legal advisor to the Corporación Fischel, was sentenced to two years, for destroying documents related to the Caja-Fischel case, while Olman Valverde, Fischel's financial officer was absolved of any wrongdoing.

All the eight accused walked out of the courtroom to await the written decision phase of the process that is due on November 3, when the parties can then protest (a form of appeal) the court's decision before it is confirmed by the Sala de Casación, before any of the seven can spend a day behind bars.

The Tribunal de Goicoechea did not elect to place any of the sentenced to preventive detention, only prohibiting Calderón from holding a public office, effectively terminating his bid for re-election in 2010.

The former president could have still continued his candidacy for the 2010 presidential elections, as the court ban does not go into effect until it is confirmed, which in this case could be a year or more.

However, last night he announced his resignation of leader of the PUSC party, saying it would be immoral to ask the people of Costa Rica for their vote while the legal process still hangs over him.

Calderón, as well as the lawyers for the others sentenced, all said that they would be taking action against the court decision, feeling it was not just and that the judges overlooked important evidence that proves their innocence.

"Today we lost the battle, but not the war", Calderón told the waiting news cameras as he left the courtroom.

For his part, the Fiscal General, Fraincisco Dall'Annese, was not pleased either with the sentence feeling it was too light. The Fiscalía has asked between 20 and 24 years prison for the accused. The  Fiscal General added that there may be an appeal on their part once they have the written decision to analyze.

Costa Rican president, Oscar Arias, refused to comment on the court decision, saying that in a democracy it is not his place to comment on court decisions.

Monday's court session started on time at 2:30pm.

By 2:35pm the faces of the accused showed their surprise at the sentence that was just read to them. The president of the court, followed with and explanation of their decision and how it was arrived at.

Teresita Rodríguez explained that the sentenced had defrauded the public, that even though it was beyond proof that the medical equipment purchased with the loan from the government of Finland was of quality and not overpaid and of benefit to people of Costa Rica and that the equipment is being fully utilized in social security hospitals, the accused took advantage of their position by receiving a commission on the deal that both the people of Costa Rica and of Finland must pay.

The judge gave gratitude to the people of Finland for providing the financing which, though is not interest free, the interest on the loan is well below normal for such transactions, had a three year grace period and a ten year repayment schedule.





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