Prosecutors interrogate archbishop and Rodrigo Arias

Two leading figures in Costa Rican society showed up at prosecutor’s offices Tuesday to submit to formal questioning.

One was Rodrigo Arias, the brother of the former president and a presidential candidate himself.

The other was Archbishop Hugo Barrantes, the highest Roman Catholic churchman in the country.

Arias was there to answer questions about how the Óscar Arias administration handled some $2 million that came from the Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica. Rodrigo Arias was minister of the Presidencia, basically chief of staff for his brother.

The Arias brothers have said they did not consider the funds from the Banco Centroamericano to be public money. They distributed the money as purported consultancy payments that appear to have been designed to grease the skids for the Central American Free Trade Treaty with the United States.

Barrantes is 75 and has just tendered his resignation to the Vatican. He retains his position until someone else is appointed. His problem is a fund that was managed by the Conferencia Episcopal de Costa Rica, the conference of bishops, from 2004 through 2006.

The fund, Servicios Pastorales, made loans and has been accused by government financial officials of illegal banking.

Both the situation with Rodrigo Arias and that of the Catholic Church were exposed by the La Nación daily newspaper in unreleased news articles.

Arias is facing an allegation of mismanaging public funds.

His interview by prosecutors Tuesday was confirmed by the Poder Judicial. He told reporters afterwards that his statements were about the same as those he delivered to a commission of lawmakers last month.

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