Costa Rica court to rule on ex-leader bribery charges

27th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

A court in Costa Rica was to rule Wednesday in the corruption trial for former president Miguel Angel Rodriguez on charges of receiving bribes from France's Alcatel firm.

Prosecutors have asked for seven years behind bars for Rodriguez for allegedly receiving over $800,000 in payments from the French telecommunications company, in exchange for helping it receive a $149-million government contract to provide 400,000 cell phone lines.

Prosecutor Criss Gonzalez in February asked the court to sentence Rodriguez, who led the Central American country from 1998 to 2002, to five years in prison for aggravated corruption and two years for illegal profiteering, as well as barring him from public office for 12 years.

Over a hundred witnesses have been called in the case, which began in April last year, and thousands of documents have been produced as evidence. The case is unlikely to end with Wednesday's ruling as both sides have promised to appeal a verdict against them.

Late last year, Paris-based Alcatel-Lucent agreed to pay a fine of about $137 million to avoid US prosecution into alleged bribes paid in countries including Costa Rica, Honduras, Malaysia and Taiwan between December 2001 and June 2006.

The Justice Department said Alcatel had violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prior to its 2006 merger with US-based Lucent Technologies.

Alcatel-Lucent admitted that the company earned some $48.1 million in profits as a result of the actions, officials said.

US officials said the bribery payments were undocumented or improperly recorded as consulting fees in the books of Alcatel's subsidiaries and that head of units in the regions "either knew or were severely reckless in not knowing about the misconduct."

© 2011 AFP

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