(CNN Español) – In Costa Rica, the authorities carried out 57 raids, including the Presidential House and 13 other public institutions, such as the Ministry of Public Works and Transport and the National Council of Highways (Conavi). On Monday, Walter Espinosa, director of the Judicial Investigation Agency (OIJ), reported to local media that they are investigating a possible corruption case in the public service related to the construction of public works and the maintenance and maintenance of the road network.
In a statement, the Deputy Attorney General for Integrity, Transparency and Anti-Corruption (FAPTA) reported that a process is being carried out in an office in the Presidency that is occupied only by the President’s advisors, not ministers or members of higher authorities. This was also confirmed by the presidency to CNN.
“The evidence required to be obtained at these locations is documentation, electronic equipment, and other relevant evidence of the process in question, as dictated by law in this type of proceeding and in the presence of the criminal safeguards judge at each location,” the Prosecutor’s Office explained.
According to Espinosa, crimes of bribery, embezzlement, irregular payments to administrative contracts, influence peddling, embezzlement, illegal associations, fraud and ideological falsehood are investigated.
Espinosa said that since 2019, the attorney general’s office and the OIJ have received “concrete and direct complaints” about the existence of a group of public officials who allegedly “will collude with members, employees, representatives and owners of very high-ranking private companies that usually have jurisdiction,” and that they are supposed They embezzle funds, favor certain projects and people, in addition to affecting the public treasury.
The authorities expected that raids would also take place in private companies and private homes. The OIJ confirmed to CNN that about 28 people have been arrested. Espinosa has announced that he is under investigation for crimes of bribery, embezzlement, irregular payments of administrative contracts, influence peddling, embezzlement, illicit association, fraud and ideological lying.
The OIJ director also noted that there was a “budget gap” caused by irregular transfers of about 78,000 million colones (just over $126 million) between 2018 and 2020. “This does not mean that these funds were stolen, but rather misappropriated. Espinosa explained, “They have used it for various purposes without permission, and this has given rise to situations that are embodied in bribery.”
The official announced that this operation is one of the most important operations that the Public Prosecution has worked with in recent times.
The Presidency of Costa Rica stated in a statement that it “has provided and will cooperate with the judicial authorities in the investigation it is conducting”, in addition to that it “will provide the authorities with any information or documents. that may result from the usefulness of establishing the facts in their investigation.”
CNN is contacting the Department of Public Works and Transportation and Conavi for a response.
This is the second raid on the presidential palace during the government of Carlos Alvarado. The first was in February 2020, as part of investigations to determine whether the presidential data analysis unit had access to confidential citizen data. In his appearance before Congress, Alvarado defended himself by denying espionage. “The data was never used for electoral purposes or for the benefit of a third party. There was no misuse of public money and they were always acting under the law.” The so-called UPAD case was not finalized, and the investigation was suspended at the end of January because several defendants filed technical appeals with the Third Circuit and it has not been resolved. Currently, the file is in that room, the attorney general’s office told CNN on Monday.
Janan Villanueva contributed to this report.