Costa Rica prosecutor wants 7 years for ex-leader

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A Costa Rican prosecutor urged a judge Monday to put former president Miguel Angel Rodriguez behind bars for seven years on charges of receiving bribes from France's Alcatel firm.

Rodriguez, who led the Central American country from 1998 to 2002, is on trial for allegedly receiving over $800,000 in illegal 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 asked the court to sentence Rodriguez 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.

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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