SAN JOSE (Reuters) – Costa Rica’s Congress opened an investigation on Wednesday into complaints of illegal financing during the electoral campaign of President Rodrigo Chaves, who took office in May.
A special commission, backed by the opposition, will spend two months investigating complaints regarding bank accounts with ties to several political parties, including Chaves’ Social Democratic Progress Party.
The investigation by lawmakers follows the opening of another probe by prosecutors, which could lead to the suspension of immunity protections for Chaves and Vice President Stephan Brunner, who served as Chaves’ campaign treasurer.
Chaves, who ran for office on a message of anti-corruption, has denied any ties to the alleged illegal financing scheme, while dismissing the allegations as politically motivated.
Costa Rica’s elections court forwarded the findings of an investigation into Chaves to prosecutors in June. That probe found that Chaves’ campaign was backed by what the investigation described as a “dark financing scheme,” with money funneled from companies and foreigners through a private trust managed by current Foreign Minister Arnoldo Andre.
“We are going to work rigorously, and without defending partisan interests, to make the campaign finances transparent due to the complaints that have been raised,” said opposition lawmaker Dinorah Barquero, who added that Chaves may be called forward to testify.
Chaves and Brunner enjoy legal immunity while in office, but could lose it if such a move was requested by the Supreme Court and approved by 38 of 47 opposition legislators.
“My conscience is so clear that I sleep well every night,” Chaves said in August when audio was leaked that was alleged to contain a conversation in which Brunner discussed campaign finances with Chaves.
(Reporting by Alvaro Murillo; Writing by Kylie Madry; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)