Henriette Jacobsen, TheCostaRicaNews.com

Miguel Ángel Rodriguez Echeverria has been sentenced to five years in prison as instigator of aggravated corruption in the ICE-Alcatel case, and has been barred from holding a public office for the next twelve years.

As a precautionary measure, Rodriguez is also banned from leaving Costa Rica until the court decision is firm. The Tribubal de Hacienda in the Segundo Circuito Penal de San José in Goicoechea gave its verdict Wednesday at 3.20pm. Rodriguez was convicted along with eight other defendants.

Initially, the Ministerio Público had wanted Rodriguez to receive the maximum sentence of seven years, but the three judges decided on a lower sentence. According to the court, Rodriguez has played the role of an “instigator” in demanding a bribe from the French telecommunication company ICE-Alcatel in exchange for getting the contract of installing 400,000 GSM cellular lines on 2001.

In 2004, Rodriguez resigned as Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) after being accused of having received bribes from ICE-Alcatel. After his resignation, Rodriguez returned to Costa Rica where he was detained and later transferred to the Attorney General’s Office.

It is not the first time a former Costa Rican president has been prosecuted in court. In October 2009, the former president Rafael Ángel Calderón Fournier was also sentenced to five years in prison in the Caja-Fischel case for two counts of embezzlement. Calderón has appealed the conviction.