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Costa Rican ex president found guilty

SAN JOSE, Apr 28 – A Costa Rican court sentenced former president Miguel Angel Rodriguez to five years in prison after finding him guilty of taking bribes from French telecoms giant Alcatel.

"Miguel Angel Rodriguez Echeverria has been found to have been the main instigator of the crime of aggravated corruption … and will receive a sentence of five years in prison," announced Rosaura Garcia, the lead criminal judge on the second circuit panel in San Jose.

Rodriguez, 71, a former head of the Organization of American States who resigned in 2004 when the scandal broke, also was barred from public office for 12 years, the court said.

Eight other people charged along with the ex-president for taking bribes from Alcatel were convicted and sentenced to varying terms.

Prosecutors sought seven years behind bars for Rodriguez for allegedly receiving over $800,000 in payments from Alcatel during his presidency, in exchange for helping it get a $149-million government contract to provide 400,000 cell phone lines.

Rodriguez, who led the Central American country from 1998 to 2002, said he would appeal.

"This case is not over; we will go to appeal," Rodriguez said.

Late last year, Paris-based Alcatel-Lucent agreed to pay a fine of about $137 million to avoid US prosecution into alleged bribes paid in countries including Costa Rica, Honduras, Malaysia and Taiwan between December 2001 and June 2006.

The US Justice Department said Alcatel had violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prior to its 2006 merger with US-based Lucent Technologies.

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Alcatel-Lucent admitted that the company earned some $48.1 million in profits as a result of the actions, officials said.

US officials said the bribery payments were undocumented or improperly recorded as consulting fees in the books of Alcatel\’s subsidiaries and that head of units in the regions "either knew or were severely reckless in not knowing about the misconduct."

Rodriguez, with the Social Christian Unity Party, is the second former Costa Rican president to be tried for corruption. Rafael Angel Calderon, who was president from 1990-1994, was sentenced in October 2009 to five years in prison for embezzlement in what was then a landmark case.

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