Alcatel ex-manager testifies in legislature wearing handcuffs

Edgar Valverde Acosta, the former manager of Alcatel lCyT in Costa Rica appeared before a legislative committee Thursday in handcuffs. He said that he was the scapegoat in the case and that the principal beneficiaries were Alcatel and José Antonio Lobo Solera, who was the state’s key witness.

This is the case that earned Valverde 20 years in prison and also resulted in a conviction of former president Miguel Ángel Rodríguez Echevarría. Valverde was under guard by prison police during his testimony.

Valverde would not answer any questions from the members of the Comisión Permanente Especial de Ingreso y Gasto Público because his case still is under appeal. But he said that the prosecutor committed crimes to get evidence to achieve the conviction.

In the United States a former Alcatel CyT executive got 30 months in prison for engaging in the elaborate bribery scheme to obtain the mobile telephone contract. The man admitted making more than $2.5 million in bribe payments to Costa Rican officials, in violation of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. He is Christian Sapsizian, 62, who has
cooperated with authorities. Sapsizian admitted that between February 2000 and September 2004, he conspired with Valverde.

Lobo was a member of the board of directors of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, which awarded the cell telephone contract. Alcatel was awarded a mobile telephone contract by the state firm known as ICE in August 2001 valued at $149 million.

Valverde said he tried to turn state’s evidence the way Lobo did but that prosecutors rejected his efforts because he did not have enough information that they wanted. Valverde said that Lobo managed to get away with a long chain of crimes and received a lot of money. Lobo never was charged.

The committee hopes to hear from José María Figueres Olsen, the former president, next week, although Figueres has been shy about showing up at legislative hearings. He received about $900,000 from Alcatel as an adviser from 2000 to 2003. Figueres also paid a similar amount to Carmen Valverde Acosta, Valverde’s sister, according to reports about the case.

Figueres was not charged in the Alcatel case. He is a possible presidential candidate for the Partido Liberación Nacional.

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