Costa Rica’s top prosecutor is accusing several high-ranking government officials of approving a Canadian gold mine without the legal requirements.
Calgary-based Infinito Gold was hoping to operate the open pit mine in the Crucitas area of Costa Rica’s north.
However, after approval was initially granted to begin operations, irregularities were found in the approval process.
The courts annulled the mining permits and the approval was declared illegal.
Seven Costa Rican government officials are now awaiting trial, including the former minister of environment, who could face up to six years in prison.
“It’s a very serious accusation,” says Deputy Prosecutor for Probity, Transparency and Anti-corruption Juan Carlos Cubillo. “This is an important moment for Costa Rica.”
The prosecutor is also investigating Costa Rica’s former president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Oscar Arias, who issued a decree in 2008 declaring the mine to be in Costa Rica’s national interest.
Cubillo is looking into reports widely published in the Costa Rican press, suggesting a payment was offered from a ‘business partner’ of the Canadian-owned mine to the Arias Foundation for Peace just months before the president declared the mine to be in the country’s national interest.
The foundation’s director at the time confirmed there was an offer of $250,000 for addictions treatment, but said the foundation did not accept any money.
Infinito Gold did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
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Instead, the spokesperson for the company’s Costa Rican subsidiary, Industrias Infinito, directed Global News to a book she wrote on the 20-year history of the controversial mine.
The book says “…both the Arias Foundation for Peace and Industrias Infinito categorically denied that any donation existed.”
The book also quotes a press release from Industrias Infinito saying alleged donations in the media “…are the product of evil and perversion of those who want to discredit the good name of the company and our parent company Infinito Gold.”
It also points out that no hard evidence has been found suggesting any payment.
“Effectively we need to investigate this information, we are investigating, and we have the obligation to do it,” says Cubillo.
The prosecutor also says that a request for information has been submitted to the Canadian government regarding the case as the Costa Ricans look for bank records.
Global News contacted Canada’s Department of Justice to ask if it is cooperating but was told: “due to the confidentiality of State to State communications, the department does not confirm nor deny any requests for legal assistance by other countries.”
Infinito Gold now says it will take Costa Rica to international arbitration over the halting of its mine operations.
The company believes the country is violating its international trade agreements with Canada and said on Friday the lawsuit is “imminent.”