Corruption probe widens for San Ramón concession

A criminal investigation has been added to the problems of the proposed San José-San Ramón highway.

Meanwhile, the 58-kilometer stretch has soared in estimated cost from $150 million to the current $525 million estimate. It remains in administrative limbo.

This is the highway project that has drawn strong opposition from residents of the communities along the route. They object to the proposed 2,000 colones one-way toll that is being proposed. The public outcry was so strong that President Laura Chinchilla said last month that she had canceled the contract.

The highway was supposed to be a concession with the contracting firm building the road in return for the tolls over the next 25 years. The legal validity of the president’s decision is still unclear. That decision in itself may be grounds for litigation.

Still, prosecutors staged five raids Friday as a continuation of the investigation in to the roadway.

Originally the highway was supposed to be constructed by Autopistas del Valle, a firm related to Autopista del Sol, the company that built the highway from San José to Caldera. Autopistas del Valle surrendered the contract to the Brazilian firm Construtora OAS Ltda. This action was ratified by the Contraloría General de República, the budget watchdog, last month.

The short story for commuters is that there will not be a modern four-lane highway anytime soon.

The investigation by the anti-corruption prosecutors is expected to be lengthy. The purpose of the raids Friday was to obtain documents. Search warrants already had been executed at the Consejo Nacional de Concesiones, the agency supervising the contracts.

The firms where documents were sought by prosecutors were Compañia Asesora de Construccion E Ingenieria Cacisa S.A. in Santa Domingo Heredia; Soares da Costa in La Sabana, San José, and Empresa CyC CACISA in Rohrmoser. Also visited by prosecutors were the Escazú offices of Autopistas del Valle and OAS.

The nature of the investigation indicates that the principal targets are public officials rather than just private businesses.

The Poder Judicial said Friday that the focus was failing to fulfill official duties and that the complaint came into prosecutors April 8.

The announcement of the raid did not rule out investigations for other illegalities.

The criminal probe is one more involving the Chinchilla administration. Still under investigation is the Ruta 1856 road that was put through along the Río San Juan at the northern border of the country.

Lawmakers also are conducting investigations of these projects but without any conclusions.

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