License agency workers face bribery allegations

Workers in the country’s driver license agency are accused of faking at least 400 licenses in exchange for money.

In some cases foreigners paid up to a million colons, as much as $2,000, to obtain a license, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. Many of the fake licenses went to foreigners.

The judicial police raided the license issuing facility in La Uruca Monday morning, and the agency was forced to stop work. The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes said issuing licenses resumed at midday.

The ministry said that the investigation began a year and a half ago.

The Poder Judicial said that the chief of the Departamento de Acreditación de Licencias was among those detained. The agency is within the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad, which is itself within the ministry.

Raids also took place at homes in Hatillo, Guadalupe and Tibás, said the Poder Judicial. The chief of the agency was identified by the last names of Fernández Chacón. The two other persons detained included a man with the last names of Obando López and a woman with the last names of Vega Ballestero. The other two were described as input operators.

The Poder Judicial said that the individuals were involved in providing licenses for foreigners who did not have the proper requirements. Usually this means a valid license from the foreigner’s country.

Two other persons from the same department were detained May 22, 2009, said the Poder Judicial.

Those detained Monday face bribery allegations.

The Judicial police said that they found equipment for making licenses in the raids of the dwellings Monday. Agents said that the allegation is that the individuals produced false foreign licenses and then used them to validate the applicants right to drive in Costa Rica. A foreigner who does not have an active license in his or her home country has to take an academic course on driving and also take a practical test.

Judicial police said they were picking 30 cases from among the 200 to conduct a detailed analysis. There was no information as to whether U.S., Canadian or European expats were involved in the license scam. Judicial agents did say that some Costa Ricans obtained licenses in this manner.

The license-issuing agency also was involved in another wave of arrests last month when six inspectors who administer the driving test were detained for taking bribes. That was in Dos Rios.

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