Traffic police in Guanacaste held in bribery investigation

Traffic officers in Guanacaste had a happy hunting ground for bribes from motorists, both Costa Rican and foreigners, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The agency’s Sección Especializada de Tránsito detained 13 traffic officers Monday in Limonal, Cañas and Nicoya.

The officers were detained at the various stations where they work. The judicial police said the investigation had been going on since March when a confidential tip came in.

The men were jailed overnight to await court action today in Goicoechea, said the Poder Judicial.

Judicial police said that they were investigating 27 cases, but they added that there probably were many more.

The bribes ranged from 10,000 colons, about $20 for Costa Ricans, up to $80 for expats, said the judicial police. In one case, a motorist who had been flagged down did not have money, so the officer took a cell telephone. Agents said they confiscated the cell telephone when they arrested the man Monday morning.

The technique used to exact bribes was to keep watch on an area where there is a double yellow line which means a no-passing zone. When a motorist violated the law, the Tránsito officers were there to administer an instant fine. In some cases, the motorist was threatened with confiscation of his or her passport, said the judicial agency.

Rodrigo Rivera, the acting minister of Obras Públicas y Transportes, reacted by calling upon traffic officers to be honest and to report corrupt members of their department. The Policía de Tránsito is part of the ministry.

The Poder Judicial said that the men were questioned formally Monday at the Ministerio Público in Liberia. Typically in cases like this a judge will let the men go free pending trial but they will be suspended from their functions.

So far this year, 29 traffic officers have been detained on allegations that they took bribes. That figure includes those detained Monday.

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