The case of a British expat and his lawyer facing a forgery charge has been remanded back to the trial court.
The surprise decision came via a faxed court statement Tuesday to Sheldon Haseltine. The statement by Adán Campos Fallas, an appeals judge, said that the trial court judge had made grave errors and that the original hearing would have to be held again.
Haseltine is the man who has been fighting for 16 years to hang on to pieces of property in the Los Sueños area of the central Pacific coast. He and his lawyer were overjoyed Jan. 10 when a trial court judge accepted the recommendations of a prosecutor and rejected the claim that the pair had engaged in forgery of paperwork in a civil case.
Those leveling the allegation, a prominent businessman and a woman who lives on one of the properties, quickly appealed, and the appeal hearing was Friday. The hearing barely got underway when the recording equipment failed. The hearing was rescheduled until Feb. 2.
Campos apparently listened to the recording of the trial court proceedings in the interim. He said that the initial judge in the case, Yorleni Campos Campos, had made serious technical errors. He did not address the substance of the appeals.
This is the case that involves Armando González Fonseca, a Costa Rican business leader. He is believed to have purchased some interest in Haseltine’s land from a squatter. Also opposing Haseltine and his lawyer, Horacio Mejias Portuguez, is Martha Sandoval, who lives on one of Haseltine’s properties.
Campos said that the judge failed to identify Ms. Sandoval correctly in the hearing, according to the recorded proceedings. The trial judge also did not read completely the allegations in the case, he said.
Haseltine said he got the decision from Campos Tuesday afternoon. He said it appeared that he would have to return to Puntarenas again.
The lawyer for Gonzalez is Otto Giovanni Ceciliano Mora, the former Barva mayoral candidate, who missed the initial trial. He was in preventative detention in an unrelated marijuana smuggling and money laundering case. He did show up at the appeal, however.
A prosecutor, Dixiela Madrigal Mora, as the trial judge has said there is no substance to the forgery allegation. The prosecutor conducted her own investigation. The specific allegation in the case was that a document that simplified the management of Haseltine’s corporation, Ivanhoe Investment S.A., was fake.
The corporation is registered in Panamá, but administered in The Bahamas. The document required and got the seal of the Costa Rican consulate in The Bahamas.
Haseltine needed the document so he could respond rapidly to a civil case involving ownership of the tract near Los Sueños that González claims.
If the document were forged, he would lose that case as well for not having responded correctly to the civil allegations. That is the motivation of Ceciliano, González and Ms. Sandoval for pressing the criminal case.