William Moore Casto is one of the few foreign tourists who has gotten up the nerve to file a complaint against an alleged incident of traffic police officers soliciting bribes. In January of 2016, Moore told The Voice of Guanacaste about traffic officers allegedly collecting a bribe in the Liberia area.
On January 11, Moore was heading towards Liberia from Jaco when he was stopped by traffic officers who charged him $300 for improper passing.
According to the list of fines maintained by the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation (MOPT– Ministerio de Obras Publicas y Transportes), a fine for this type of infraction is around $530. However, according to the foreigner’s version, the officers asked him for $300 to avoid being given a ticket.
“They were dressed in white uniforms. They had a blue truck and a tow truck. They laughed when they realized I was a tourist. An officer asked me for my passport and the registration of the rental car. He told me, ‘Friend, your vacations have ended. Please get out of the car.’ The thinner, taller officer said, ‘We can give you a ticket. You’d have to go to the bank and pay $600. But my friend… we are going to do you a favor. Pay us $300 and there’s no ticket,” Moore recounted.
The foreigner decided to return to Jaco and filed a complaint at the office of the Judicial Investigation Organization (OIJ) on January 18. However, most of these cases are not reported because tourists do not have the motivation or do not have time.
According to Xinia Zamora, OIJ press spokeswoman, in the past two years, the agency has only received two complaints due to collecting bribes related to traffic officials in Guanacaste.
“Maybe it is because this kind of collection is done to foreign people and they do not have the motivation to complain,” said Zamora.
Another limitation is that foreigners come to spend just a few days in the country and then they have to go back and therefore it is difficult for them to complete the procedures to formalize a complaint.
In Moore’s case, his complaint was welcomed by OIJ, but they have not been able to process his case because the victim left the country and has not shown up to testify. If he does not show up, his case will be archived and once again the incidents will go unpunished.
Juan Carlos Gonzalez, from MOPT’s press department, indicated that MOPT has an internal council that is in charge of analysing and investigating such complaints, but in addition to their testimony, victims need to be able to provide proof that gives evidence that the crime was committed.
Those affected can email complaints to firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the nearest MOPT office.