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Costa Rica’s Citizen Action Party (PAC) Accused of Scam

Costa Rica News – The Criminal Court of San José condemned the Citizen Action Party (PAC) and two of its supporters for committing a scam of almost ¢ 353 million against the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), at the time of collecting the political debt of the national elections of 2010.

pac_citizens_action_party-costa-ricaJudges imposed a six-year jail sentence on ex-plaintiff Maynor Sterling and three on collaborator Manuel Antonio Bolaños. The PAC sentenced Bolaños to pay ¢ 600 million to the state for the damage caused, along with the two militants.

According to the judges, Sterling and Bolaños committed a major fraud offense, while the PAC structure was “negligent.”

The ex treasury created the way in which the party charged the TSE with special services contracts with leaders and militants who, in fact, offered their work for free, offered a different service not participated. He was declared a co-author of the crime of fraud to the detriment of the State.

“Maynor was one of the leaders of various actions that resulted in the fraud suffered by the Costa Rican State for ¢ 352.7 million, which the Court has been able to verify. Maynor was one of the lead people of PAC, in a way that has greater reproach from the legal point of view, than in the case of Don Manuel Antonio, “said Judge Raúl Madrigal.

For that same cause the court condemned the other accused, Manuel Antonio Bolaños Murillo. He was sentenced to three years in prison, although he was granted parole for five years.

Judge Madrigal added,  “In your case, Manuel Antonio, there is no need to go to jail, after all, this court is not unaware of the reality and because of the ailments and diseases you present, understands that the penitentiary system is not the ideal for you to fulfill that penalty that has been imposed.”

Judge Maribel Bustillo added: “The court is absolutely clear that two of the main perpetrators of this crime were Maynor Sterling and Manuel Antonio Bolaños. In the case of Maynor, he was the treasurer of the PAC and, in the case of Manuel Antonio the court considers that he was the executing arm.”

PAC, as jointly responsible with Sterling and Bolaños, was condemned to pay almost ¢ 353 million for property damage, plus ¢ 40 million personal and procedural costs, an amount to which should be added interest and other items. The Attorney General’s Office estimated that interest amounted to ¢ 205 million.

The judges rejected compensation for social damage, which the Attorney General estimated at ¢ 60 million.

Madrigal stated that the PAC is being condemned for indirect civil liability, since both Manuel and Maynor have acted in the name of the party and, pursuant to article 1048 of the Civil Code, the PAC was negligent when choosing or supervising the work that both so they must respond with their own name and heritage.

While the possible appeals to the ruling are resolved, the ex-prosecutor has been issued an impediment to leave the country, for which he must surrender his passport within the next 48 hours. In addition, this person must appear to sign once a month before a court.

The court rejected the request for preventive detention against Sterling, concluding that there is no reason to believe that he will escape before the sentence is final. He attended all the hearings of the trial, has a home and family roots in Costa Rica and a pension from the University of Costa Rica (UCR).

Integral sentence consists of more than 2,000 pages and will be released on January 16, 2017, at 4:30 p.m. M.

Office of the prosecutor accused the PAC of including 263 “false” contracts for special services within the liquidation of expenses that the TSE reimbursed, once the electoral process of 2010 concluded.

In the end, the judges determined the falseness of 179 such contracts, which amount to almost ¢ 353 million. In the other contracts it was not possible to prove the falsehood.

For these controversial contracts, PAC received ¢ 516 million. The Public Ministry claimed that the swindle was ¢ 364 million, because in all cases it was possible to verify some crime.

Six years ago, the state contribution exceeded ¢ 17,000 million. With the votes obtained, PAC could claim ¢ 3,741 million. In the end, the political party reported campaign spending of ¢ 4,238 million, just over ¢ 1.1 billion.

Through a press release, PAC informed that it respects the court’s decision and will await the full sentence to decide whether to file an appeal on behalf of the group. The group added that it has reserve money until the eventual payment that dictates the sentence.

Regarding the sentenced, the PAC said that it will apply the sanction established in the statute if the sentence acquires firmness, that is to say, the expulsion of the party. The National Assembly will the only party that could approve the reinstatement.

Current treasurer, Anthony Cascante said that internal controls will be strengthened, “The PAC was born to do a different policy, and that implies a continuous improvement of the controls over the use of public resources.”

The prosecutor of the case, Alxánder Valverde, was satisfied and ruled out appealing the precautionary measures issued to the ex-treasurer.

Attorney, Randall Aguirre also applauded the court’s decision, but announced that it is considering appealing it to reapply for damages.

PAC is the second political party to be convicted of an electoral crime. In October last year, the San José Criminal Court imposed an eight-year prison sentence on the vice-president of the Movimiento Libertario party, ex-deputy Ronaldo Alfaro for a crime of fraud against the TSE.

By Brenda Sotelo

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