Readers have some suggestions to reduce property frauds

Readers have responded to an editorial Monday that suggested legal fixes to reduce property fraud in Costa Rica.

Phil Baker, who successfully survived a legal effort to take his beach property, said “the problem is that an attorney can transfer your property by entering in their protocol book that you appeared in front of them and then they issue and sign the deed and forge your signature.”

“There needs to be a system that uses fingerprints alongside of any signature,” he added. “Just as signing a real estate document in front of a notary public in California, you have to give your fingerprint alongside your signature, the same must apply in Costa Rica.”

Barry D. Cohen of Escazú said that his years in Costa Rica have taught him that the rich and powerful run roughshod and with impunity over everyone.  “It is a sad reflection on the Costa Rican people who, for the most part, are honest and hard working,” he added.

“It is extraordinary this practice has been going on for years and sadly it is likely to continue to do so,” Cohen said.

The editorial followed a news story Friday that reported that British citizen Sheldon Haseltine has been acquitted of forgery because a prosecutor and judge did not believe that the allegation had merit. The trial was one of a series of long-running legal cases that jeopardized Haseltine’s property ownership of land on the central Pacific coast.

“Your article regarding Mr. Haseltine’s land raises some interesting questions,” said Cohen.  “If it has taken him 16 years even to begin to get anywhere when he has real title, what can any foreigner expect?”

Said Baker:

“The fix is simple. Stop making it so easy for crooked attorneys to transfer title. But why would the Colegio of Abogados want to fix a problem that generates so much revenue for attorneys? They are attorneys! You have a problem in Costa Rica, so you get an attorney. Nine times out of ten afterwards you now have two problems: The legal problem and the attorney milking it for all the money they can make off your problem, and that includes making the problem worse. I am not being sarcastic.

“The wolf is watching the hen house. Very sad.”

Another reader said:

“You are the only member of the fourth estate to have the integrity and courage to shine a light on this awful and disgusting aberration. You are doing a great service not only to the foreigners who own property but to Costa Rica itself. Well done.”

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