Investigation launched in leak over Las Crucitas mine appeal

The Crucitas scandal grew Tuesday to a proportion that might mean the end of the entire project.

Moisés Fachler, a replacement magistrate, resigned by letter early Tuesday. He is the man named by others as having leaked a draft of a proposed Sala Primera court decision to Industrias Infinito S.A., the concession holder on the Las Crucitas mine in northern Costa Rica.

The entire Corte Surpema de Justicia met in special session to appoint a magistrate to launch its own investigation. Appointed by a drawing was Julia Varela Araya, who is assigned to the Sala Secunda.

The Poder Judicial put out a brief statement from the nation’s chief prosecutor. It mainly said that the details of the investigation would be kept confidential

William Méndez, a former Infinito employee sparked the scandal when he told Channel 7 Telenoticias that he was present when an unnamed magistrate presented Infinito officials and two persons representing the firm’s Canadian corporate owner the draft of the decision. Méndez would not name the magistrate, but others did.

Amigos de la Tierra Costa Rica, in a press release, identified Fachler and noted that he was the former treasurer of the Partido Liberación Nacional, the party of former president Óscar Arias Sánchez and the current president, Laura Chinchilla Miranda. Arias supported the mine and issued a special decree saying the project was important to the country.

The court action involved is an appeal of a decision by the Tribunal Contencioso Admistrativo to annul the concession held by Infinito based on what was determined to be failings in the approval process.

So far, the contents of the Sala Primera draft have not been made public. However, Amigos de la Tierra said that leaking the draft was a clear effort to prejudice the actions of the Sala Primera and lay the groundwork for an international arbitration case.

The Las Crucitas mine has been controversial because of anticipated environmental damage. The company has not been very aggressive in its public relations.

Tuesday it put out a brief statement that said the firm was sadden by the situation and said the image of the company has been affected because it was exposed to media attention without foundation. It said it would collaborate with the investigation.

The firm did not deny the allegations, and company officials could face investigation themselves depending on the circumstances under which the officials received the draft.

Meanwhile, the Sala Primera is trying to prevent having the entire appeal process overturned due to the leak. Anabelle León, president of that section of the Corte Suprema, said earlier that the leak would not derail the decision by the court.

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