Residents and investors fed up with costly litigation over squatters on prime properties are forming an organization called Justice in Costa Rica and plan to push for legislation to prevent the transfer of squatters rights to third parties.
Among those involved is the expat Sheldon Haseltine who has battled for 14 years to regain full title and possession for tracts his corporation owns in the central Pacific.
The organization announced its plans in a lengthy email message Thursday night.
Haseltine is going to court next month for the third time to defend himself against a criminal charge of forgery brought by those who are seeking to acquire his property. Haseltine and his lawyer have twice been acquitted of the charge, which even the local prosecutor says is bogus. However, twice the acquittal has been nullified for technical reasons on appeal.
The expat and his fellow investors see the situation as a conspiracy directed at the highest levels of Costa Rican society. In the email, the fledgling association claims that those seeking the central Pacific land are related to the managers of major news outlets in Costa Rica. They ask why there has been no news stories about this case.
The organization said it is made up of expats and Costa Ricans, mainly those who have had to fight a long and costly battle to keep their land. The email correctly notes that there are
thousands of such cases in the legal system now.
The proposed law would prevent the purchase of squatters rights by third parties.
The email notes that that man who squatted on Haseltine’s land received 336 million colons, now about $672,000 from politically connected individuals for whatever rights he may have to the property. So now Haseltine and his partners are in court against monied interests who want the property on the strength of the squatter’s occupation.
Haseltine has embarked on a public relations campaign including YouTube videos to make the public aware of his case. In the video he notes that the squatter laws were set up years ago to help poor individuals obtain land that rich people were not using.
La Nación did publish news stories about the theft of properties from legitimate owners. The news story pointed out that an elderly politician who once served as the Costa Rica ambassador to the United Nations found that a large farm that he owned no longer was in his name. Crooks in anticipation of the politician’s death had forged documents showing that the land had been sold. Then they would come forward and claim ownership on the strength of the fake papers.
However, La Nación has not addressed this issue for several years even though this is a serious barrier to foreign investment here. Of course, some well known politicians have been involved in cases trying to wrest land from legitimate owners.