Judicial raids seek proofs in thefts of donated asphalt

Judicial and anti-corruption investigators led police on 16 raids Wednesday to look into embezzlement and theft of asphalt donated by the state-owned oil refinery.

The institutions raided included 10 municipal offices across the country, five businesses and one private residence. Some 200 persons participated in the raids.

In a release detailing the raids, a deputy government corruption prosecutor said that these institutions requested and took more asphalt than they actually needed for their projects and in some cases twice as much.

In 2010, municipalities requested asphalt officials thought they would need to repair roads in the coming year from the state-owned monopoly, Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo, or RECOPE.

Local governments must submit detailed plans of how they will use the asphalt in order to receive the donations.

However in these cases, refinery engineers and investigators noticed that many of the roads in these municipalities were still falling into disrepair without any new asphalt applied to smooth them out, according to the release.

The municipalities include Golfito, Cartago, Jiménez, Cóbano, Liberia, Buenos Aires, Barva de Heredia, Santa Bárbara de Heredia, San Pablo de Heredia and Paquera.

In all cases except in Liberia, about two thirds of the asphalt ordered was missing. The most egregious case was Buenos Aires, where none of the 120,000 liters of asphalt it ordered went to the streets that it was supposed to, said judicial officials.

According to the release from the Ministerio Público, which internally investigates government corruption among other tasks, municipalities contracted with private companies to transport the asphalt from the refinery in Moín to their districts.

The release says that all municipalities contracted with one company, Transportes Otto Corrales, Ltda. in San Miguel de Santo Domingo de Heredia. The allegation is that the trucking firm handed off the asphalt to other private companies instead of the local governments.

Those companies include Grupo Orosí Siglo XXI S.A. in San Francisco de Dos Ríos, Empresa Concreto Asfáltico Nacional in Calle Blancos, Empresa Constructora RAASA, S.A. in Tejar del Guarco, Cartago, and Empresa Constructora RAASA, S.A. in Carrillo, Guanacaste.

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