Creditors’ court filing wants pardon for Enrique Villalobos

Five supporters of the fugitive financier Luis Enrique Villalobos are blaming the Costa Rican government for the collapse of the high-interest operation and are seeking compensation in the administrative courts and a pardon for the man who ran the scheme.

The individuals are involved with the organization United Concerned Citizens & Residents. The five are John Manners, Frederick R. Pitts, Ronald Tucker, Solveig Marie Hallstrom and Katy France Tenza. The case was filed but has not yet been accepted.

The lawsuit is mainly a retelling of what Vilalobos supporters have been saying since the raid of his business July 4, 2002: That Villalobos was an honest businessman who was damaged by an over-aggressive judiciary and police acting beyond their powers.

The five also said they were treated unfairly because a criminal court has distributed money and goods confiscated from the Villalobos family in the wake of the conviction of his brother, Oswaldo, for aggravated fraud and money laundering. They claim that they should receive some of the money. The five did not join the criminal action that eventually resulted in the money awards. In fact, some of the five worked hard to get other creditors to drop their case.

The court filing also bemoans the fact that one of the creditor lawyers got $2 million for negotiating a settlement with Oswaldo Villalobos. The lawyer was not named in the document, but he is Ewald Acuña.

The news of the court filing had been reported, but the details of the allegations were not given. The filing has been translated into English and is on the organization Web site.

Specifically the case is against the Costa Rican government in general, the Superintendencia General de Valores and the judiciary.

The filing does not mention that Villalobos was paying about 3 percent per month in interest, and no one really knows what he was doing to generate that money. The trial court labeled the operation a ponzi scheme.

The filing also is contradictory in that it says Enrique Villalobos has never been notified of charges against him
and also says that the filers have been in contact with him. Villalobos fled in November 2002, and his brother was detained shortly thereafter. If he still is alive, he is believed to be living in southern Nicaragua, although police officials have been unable to locate him. He sent A.M. Costa Rica a fax message when he left and later followed up with an e-mail that was generated at a university in El Salvador.

“At no time whatsoever, did we feel that our investments were at risk, and we always obtained the same yield agreed upon and negotiated,” the filing says of the time before the raid.

Canadian investigators came to Costa Rica and sought help from local authorities who had been investigating the Villalobos operation for years. The filing blames the local police for using the Canadian case as an excuse to make the raid. That probably is a true summary of the events.

Eventually surviving members of the drug ring were convicted or pleaded guilty in Canada. Some had money with the Villalobos operation, although there was no indication that the brothers knew the origin of the money.

The filing gives a good summary of the alternative interpretation of the case by the supporters of Villalobos.

So that Costa Ricans are not burdened by a big money award to the five, the filing also asked that the Costa Rican government pardon Luis Enrique Villalobos and let him return to settle his debts privately with the five. Some of the five have long expressed the wish that Villalobos be allowed to return to pay what he owes them. However, none has specified a clear reason why he could not pay them by wire transfer from where he is now. Villalobos did not even respond when his brother was on trial.

The filing cites the recent financial scandals involving the Roman Catholic Church, saying, in part, “the government has forced us to lose our savings, persecuting an innocent Costa Rican businessman, an individual who always honored his commitments to us. He has been persecuted within this country and abroad, but such is not the case with the clergy in this country.”

Some of his supporters have said Villalobos will enjoy immunity from prosecution in 2012 when the statute of limitation on the crimes expire. However, that depends on the nature of the crime alleged. The period is related to the possible sentence for the crime. His brother got 18 years.

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