Monday, July 21, 2008

Oscar Arias denies knowledge of diverted Taiwan funds

(Photo by AFP)San Jose, Costa Rica (AFP) — Costa Rican President Oscar Arias denied any knowledge of a 1.5 million dollar donation from Taiwan for his country's poor, but which allegedly was diverted for pet projects elsewhere in the government.

News reports said donations made by Taiwan in 2006 were destined for the construction of housing for the poor, but never got to the intended recipients.

"I had no knowledge of this help from the government of Taiwan which I learned about from the press just recently," he said in remarks published Saturday in the La Nacion newspaper.

La Nacion earlier this month alleged that the office of Arias' brother and chief of staff, Rodrigo Arias, paid scores of government consultants with two million dollars that had been donated by the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (BCIE).

The funds were sent by Taiwan to BCIE at the request of Costa Rican Housing Minister Fernando Zumbado, according to press reports, which have said the sum of the wire transfer was $2.5 million.

Zumbado admits to having received only $1.5 million. The minister has been suspended from his post pending a congressional investigation.

Costa Rica in June 2007 broke its ties with Taiwan, and instead established relations with the Chinese government in Beijing.

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