12-year term sought for former minister

Prosecutors are seeking 12 years in prison for Roberto Dobles, the former environmental minister in the Óscar Arias Sánchez administration.

Six-year prison terms were requested Monday for six other persons, all former or present public employees.

The prosecutors allege that Dobles took actions against the law that gave an advantage to Industrias Infinito S.A. and its parent, the Canadian mining company.

Dobles and the staffers were involved in trying to expedite the development of an open pit gold mine in northern Costa Rica.

The prosecutors are Luis Diego Hernández and Natalia Rojas, who are skilled in environmental matters and in battling corruption, said the Poder Judicial.

Infinto had a lengthy legal battle to follow through on its efforts to open the mine.

In 2010 the Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo inexplicably canceled the mining company’s permit and asked prosecutors to investigate public officials involved in the case. The tribunal also asked for a criminal investigation of Arias, but prosecutors so far have declined to do that.

Dobles is accused to two counts of prevaricato or doing something forbidden by law.

Infinito’s Las Crucitas mine became a controversial issue, and eventually the company had to abandon its project after its concession was canceled. Now it is seeking a money judgment in international arbitration. The company also is accused of cutting some trees at the site.

Tree cutting, of course, was the logical result of trying to put in an open pit mine. The company planned to restore the land after extracting the gold.

The trial began Oct. 27 and is expected to continue for two more weeks, said the Poder Judicial.

These representing Costa Rica in the international arbitration are hoping for a conviction of Dobles so they can defend the country’s actions. Dobles has said there is no motive and no indication that he had received anything of value.

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