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Costa Rica court sentences ex-president to prison on corruption charges

A Costa Rican court on Wednesday found the country's former president Miguel Angel Rodriguez [CIDOB profile, in Spanish] guilty of corruption charges and sentenced him to five years imprisonment. Rodriguez, who also served as Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) [official website], accepted more than $800,000 in bribes [AFP report] from global telecommunications company Alcatel-Lucent [corporate website] during his presidency, in exchange for a deal with the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) [website, in Spanish] that would allow the company to place 400,000 cell phone lines in the country. Alcatel-Lucent reached a $137 million settlement [JURIST report] in December with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) [official websites] over improper payments made to foreign government officials in order to obtain contracts for business in Costa Rica, Honduras, Malaysia and Taiwan. Rodriguez said the accusations against him are untrue and that he plans to appeal the conviction [Tico Times report].

Rodriguez served as president from 1998 to 2002, and pending charges from the corruption case against him forced him to resign [JURIST report] from his OAS position in 2004. He is the second former Costa Rican president in the last two years to be sentenced to prison on corruption charges. In 2009, former president Rafael Calderon [CIDOB profile, in Spanish] was convicted [JURIST report] of embezzling $520,000 during his presidency and sentenced to five years imprisonment. Calderon was accused and arrested [JURIST report] in 2004 along with seven others on charges of embezzling and taking kickbacks that amount to an estimated $8 million from a $32 million Finnish loan for the purchase of medical equipment and $7.5 million from state funds.

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