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COSTA RICA: Financial Row Deepens

October 27th, 2004

Jose Maria Figueres said he took money from Alcatel for consulting services after he left office in 1998.

Another former president, Miguel Angel Rodriguez, is under house arrest for allegedly taking payments from Alcatel.

A third, Rafael Angel Calderon, awaits trial on charges of taking an illegal commission on medical equipment.

Mr Figueres, 49, served as Costa Rican president between 1994 and 1998, and is now executive director of the Swiss-based World Economic Forum.

In a statement, he acknowledged receiving $906,355.31 from Alcatel in connection to contracts the company won in Costa Rica worth around $2.7m.

But the former president's representatives said Mr Figueres had been working on technological development, describing the work as "private contracts, totally legal".

Corruption scandal

Mr Figueres' disclosure came amid a gathering scandal over the financial affairs of the two other former presidents.

Both have been arrested this month as concern has mounted over corruption within the nation's political elite.

Mr Calderon, president from 1990 to 1994, faces charges that he illegally took money during a multi-million dollar purchase of medical equipment.

Mr Figueres' successor Miguel Angel Rodriguez was detained on 15 October after being forced to resign as head of the Organisation of American States (OAS).

He has said he received $140,000 from a former head of the Costa Rica's power and telephone company, Jose Antonio Lobo, but that the money was a loan intended to help finance his campaign to head the OAS.

Both former presidents have denied any wrongdoing.

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