Casino access provision violates rights, supreme court says

The nation’s highest court has told lawmakers that they cannot construct a law that allows unrestricted access to private papers by law enforcement officers.

The assessment came on a review of a law that would regulate casinos, sportsbooks and games of chance. The Comisión Permanente de Asuntos Hacendarios sent the proposed law to the Corte Suprema de Justicia for review. This is customary when lawmakers are seeking to avoid constitutional pitfalls.

The court found fault with the fourth article of the proposed law which would allow the Unidad de Inteligencia Financiera of the Instituto Costarricense sobre Drogas access to the financial papers of firms regulated by the law. The intent of lawmakers is to track down money laundering.

But the court said that only a judge can order access to private documents. To do otherwise violates the rights of the individual or firm that is involved in the effort to search its records, it added.

The decision would seem to have impact outside the world of casinos. Other agencies are seeking access to private financial documents for tax or other reasons. The court suggested to the legislative commission that it should either restructure the offending section or junk it all together.

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