EspañolOn Monday, October 5, Costa Rican prosecutors presented their closing arguments in the trial against the country’s Libertarian Movement (PML) and three party officials. The state claims party Vice President Ronaldo Alfaro engaged in fraud and used forged documents to request CR$209 million (US$390,400) from the Supreme Electoral Tribunal in 2010.
PML attorney Pedro Hidalgo tells the PanAm Post that the defense team also presented their final arguments on Monday, and that the court now has 30 days to reach a verdict.
“The case began as an investigation into some training sessions [by PML] that supposedly never happened,” Hidalgo explains. “During the trial, this was refuted with evidence and witnesses, who have come forward to testify that the workshops did, in fact, take place. The mistake was in presenting the wrong [attendance] lists to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, which disburses the state’s subsidies to political parties.”
On October 2, the Public Ministry requested a 16-year prison sentence for Alfaro, who was the party’s treasurer at the time and allegedly orchestrated the fraud.
The libertarian party’s former accountant, Roger Segura, is also facing the same charges as Alfaro, and could receive a 13-year prison term, according to Costa Rican daily La Nación.
“There were many witnesses, almost 45, even those called by the prosecution, who were very clear in saying that the courses did take place, and that they did attend, even if the lists presented were likely incorrect,” Hidalgo says. “This is a very personal conjecture; the lists matching those courses were misplaced and that other lists were presented in their place.”
The defense believes the PML committed no crime in presenting the wrong attendance lists. They contend that the funds the Costa Rican state gave to the party were legally spent on political-training programs.
Hidalgo also points out that even if the party representatives are found guilty, the court could still dole out lesser sentences, as the attorney general has called for. The sentence requested by the prosecution “is the maximum penalty the court can impose. They are requesting the maximum just to satisfy the requirements of the accusation,” he explains.
The defense attorney, however, is confident his clients will be acquitted. “We believe in justice and have a lot of respect for the court’s judgement. We also believe it will absolve the defendants and the party of all charges.”
As for the political repercussions, Hidalgo says he would prefer not to comment, since it is outside his scope as an attorney, but adds that he believes the Libertarian Movement is “strong and growing” in the country.
“The party remains active. This is just a formal trial; the public already knows the party from the elections. This is a strong party; it is an important one, with good leadership and organization,” he concludes.