The Miami Herald
Sat, Oct. 16, 2004

Police take ex-OAS chief into custody in graft case

Miguel Angel Rodríguez, whose term as OAS leader lasted only two weeks, was taken into police custody Friday in Costa Rica.

Associated Press

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica - A former Cmandersonosta Rican president returned home Friday a week after resigning as chief of the Organization of American States, and was slapped in handcuffs and led off for questioning on allegations that he took kickbacks.

Miguel Angel Rodríguez resigned on Oct. 8 after Costa Rican investigators said they were looking into allegations that he had profited from government contracts granted to a French company. He had served as OAS president for only two weeks.

''I am calm; I am not afraid. I have a lot of faith in God,'' Rodríguez told reporters on the plane. ``I have come back to defend myself and prove my innocence.''

Rodríguez was handcuffed as he stepped off the plane. Security officers later took the cuffs off and put the former president into a windowless compartment in a police truck that drove off escorted by other vehicles.

As the motorcade neared the downtown office where Rodríguez will be held until charges are filed, people gathered outside to boo and shout insults at the vehicle carrying Rodríguez.

''Thieves belong in jail!'' some chanted.

He fainted inside the building but quickly revived, police said. A doctor indicated the incident wasn't serious enough to merit hospitalization.

Rodríguez has not been formally charged with any crimes, but a judge has summoned him to testify about the corruption allegations.

Chief prosecutor Francisco Dall'Anese has said that potential charges against Rodríguez include illegal enrichment, bribery and aggravated corruption.

José Antonio Lobo, a former director of Costa Rica's power and telephone company, has testified that he accepted a $2.4 million ''prize'' on a $149 million cellular telephone contract that went to the French company Alcatel in 2001, the year before Rodríguez left office.

Lobo said Rodríguez had asked for a majority of that money and had received $510,000. Rodríguez acknowledged receiving $140,000 from Lobo but said it was a loan to finance his campaign for the OAS leadership.

Investigators are also looking into alleged payments by Taiwan to accounts controlled by Rodríguez.