The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday denied bribery allegations involving former Costa Rican president Oscar Arias, who severed relations with Taiwan in order to establish official relations with China in 2007.
Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Simon Ko (柯森耀), who was then director-general of the Ministry’s Department of Central and South American Affairs, made the denial in response to a question by the Taipei Times at the sidelines of a Panama investment seminar.
Media in Costa Rica recently reported on an investigation into whether a grant of about US$1 million offered by Taiwan for housing projects ended up in Arias’ account.
The investigation was initiated as part of a court case against the former Costa Rican minister of housing, Fernando Zumbado, for misappropriating a portion of the funds from Taiwan.
A judge ordered banking secrecy protection suspended for the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress, founded by Arias in 1988 when he was still in office, to enable the investigation to move forward, media reports said.
Taiwan donated US$2.48 million to the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) in 2006 to help Costa Rica build houses to relieve poverty.
Reports said that Taiwan made the first deposit of about US$1.4 million to CABEI on Oct. 27, 2006, and the Costa Rican Ministry of Housing received that money.
The remaining 40 percent, about US$1 million, which had been delivered as part of the trust agreement agreed in February 2007, did not enter the reach the ministry, media reports said, adding that CABEI insisted that the money was not in its accounts.
On Jan. 5, 2007, the Arias Foundation reported a US$1 million donation from Taiwan, media reports said.
It was reported that the US$1 million was a bribe from Taiwan to continue to allow the taking of shark fins from the waters around Costa Rica.
Ko denied all the allegations.
Taiwan agreed to deposit NT$2.4 million in CABEI for the housing project in Costa Rica in two installments.
However, the second installment was canceled as a result of Costa Rica breaking diplomatic ties with Taiwan in June 2007, Ko said.
The country’s then ambassador to Costa Rica, Wu Tzu-Dan (吳子丹), who has retired from diplomatic service, could not be reached for comment yesterday.