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Costa Rican ex-president found guilty of corruption


10:25 AM April 28th, 2011

April 28th, 2011 10:25 AM

SAN JOSE—A Costa Rican court sentenced former president Miguel Angel Rodriguez to five years in prison Wednesday after finding him guilty of taking bribes from French telecoms giant Alcatel.

“Miguel Angel Rodriguez Echeverria has been found to have been the main instigator of the crime of aggravated corruption … and will receive a sentence of five years in prison,” Rosaura Garcia, the lead criminal judge on the second circuit panel in San Jose, announced.

Rodriguez, 69, a former head of the Organization of American States who resigned in 2004 when the scandal broke, also was barred from public office for 12 years, the court said.

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

Rodriguez led the Central American country from 1998 to 2002.

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 US 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 heads of units in the regions “either knew or were severely reckless in not knowing about the misconduct.”

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