High court seeks probe of penetration by narcos

Supreme court magistrates Tuesday created a committee to investigate the penetration of organized crime and drug traffickers into the judiciary.

The decision came in a special session called by  Zarela Villanueva Monge, president of the Corte Suprema de Justicia.  The special session came just five days after  investigators took into custody a judge in Limón on an allegation of rigging court cases in favor of drug traffickers.

A summary of the supreme court session Tuesday suggests an effort toward a conspiracy, even though investigators said the main charge against the judge was one of influence peddling.

The summary said that the accused judge is suspected of exercising undue influence with other members of the judicial tribunal to resolve cases.

Among other actions, the supreme court ratified beefing up the resources and the number of judges in Limón. Some of the proposals will require legislative action.

The investigatory panel will include Magistrate Villanueva;  José Manuel Arroyo Gutiérrez, vice president of the court;  Luis Guillermo Rivas Loáciga, president of the Sala Primera;  Orlando Aguirre Gómez, president of the Sala Secunda;  Carlos Chinchilla Sandí; president of the Sala Tecera;  Gilbert Armijo Sancho, president of the Sala Constitutional;  Jorge Chavarría Guzmán, the fiscal general, and Francisco Segura Montero, the director of the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The committee will have 30 days to submit a report containing a complete vision of the areas of the country that are vulnerable to narcotraffickers and organized crime, the supreme court decided.

The proposal has been presented by Ernesto Jinesta Lobo of the Sala Constitucional or Sala IV.

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Magistrate Villanueva said Friday that she was satisfied with the way the judiciary is combating drug trafficking but she suggested creating courts centralized in San José to handle drug and organized crime cases. Ms. Villanueva said then that this case of the judge is being treated as an isolated incident and it should not cast doubt on other judges in Limón or throughout the country.

The judge who was arrested is Rosa Elena Gamboa, 62, who worked in the Primer Circuito Judicial of the Zona Atlántica. She has been freed but with restrictions.

The supreme court in its summary said that institutional controls functioned adequately to detect irregularities in the current case, and it also noted that other judges in the same office were the ones who made the first complaint and also asked the court president to help handle the caseload in Limón.

The supreme court magistrates also decided to:

• Reorganize the Ministerio Público so the prosecutors there can more effectively fight drug violations and organized crime.

• Reduce jurisdictional barriers to improve the application of anti-drug legislation.

• Expand the tracking of cases and work in the various offices of prosecutors involved in drug crimes, anti-corruption investigations and money laundering.

• Acquire software and licensing for servers and a data base to keep track of investigations and cases.

• Special training to make more efficient and effective the fight against narcotrafficking and corruption in the function of the judiciary.

The supreme court heard that Magistrate Villanueva was having trouble finding judges for beefing up the ranks in Limón. She was reported to be working to do so as quickly as possible and  noted that there already was agreement for certain salary incentives for work in various regions.

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