Former environmental minister convicted in open-pit gold mine case

A criminal court Wednesday convicted the former environmental minister, Roberto Dobles, of malfeasance because he signed a decree saying that the Las Crucitas open-pit gold mine was in the public interest.

The verdict most certainly will be appealed.

The trial court in the Segundo Circuito Judicial de San José in Goicoechea declined to convict seven other persons who were involved in the decree in the Minsterio de Ambiente y Energía.

The case stems from the decision of another court that canceled the concession for Industrias Infinito S.A. to operate the open pit mine in northern Costa Rica. That court also called for criminal charges against Óscar Arias Sánchez, who was president at the time and who also signed the decree.

The purpose of the decree was to advance the development of the gold mine, which was seen as a development plus for the area around Curtis de San Carlos.

The Canadian mining company for which Industrias Infinito is subsidiary, Infinito Gold, Ltd., has brought a $100 million action against the country in international arbitration. A finding of illegality may help Costa Rica’s case.

Doubles was sentenced to three years in prison, but execution was withheld, and he will not be jailed unless he commits a crime within five years, according to the summary of the verdict.

A summary of the conviction came from the Poder Judicial. A full decision by the three judges is not yet available.

The key point is that the judges found that the decree was based on false information.

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