Santa Cruz Mayor María Rosa López and Nicoya Mayor Marco Antonio Jiménez hired former Supreme Court Justice Celso Gamboa as their defense attorney for several corruption charges they face.
Gamboa was a magistrate fired for influence peddling. He was charged by the Attorney General’s Office on January 25, 2019. He’s remembered by his connection with last year’s Cementazo case.
The attorney, 42, confirmed that he is defending López on charges she illegally appointed 16 city officials. The Attorney General’s Office requested López be suspended while the case develops, but courts rejected this request.
She was prohibited from leaving the country and charged with threatening witnesses. According to Gamboa, she voluntarily accepted these measures.
López hired the former justice “a few months ago” because, she said, he is an excellent professional.
It’s well known that Celso Gamboa has a doctorate in criminal law. I’m not going to comment on his personal situation,” the Santa Cruz mayor said in a telephone interview with this newspaper.
Gamboa confirmed that he is also defending suspended Mayor Marco Antonio Jiménez, who is facing nepotism charges for hiring a sister-in-law and an his own uncle at city hall. Prosecutors requested taking the case to trial in June.
Santa Cruz’s anti-corruption prosecutor’s office said that Gamboa is also defending López in a case of illegal enrichment promoting legislation that directly benefited her. She allegedly charged ¢84 million ($140,000) illegally.
But the former magistrate denied that he and his law firm are involved in this specific case.
According to the law, only officials who have graduated as professionals and registered with professional associations can receive this payment.
The law defines liberal professionals as those who work in the “services market.” At the time, the mayor only had a degree, which is not defined as being a liberal professional, according to the law.
She is also charged with vetoing a city council agreement in which city representatives ruled to hire an external lawyer in order to advance the case against López to a higher court. They wanted to take it to that court because it allowed them to avoid paying her the illegaal funds.
The mayor said that she vetoed the accord so that they didn’t have to hire an external lawyer and could handle the case internally in city hall. But prosecutor Luis Martínez says that mayors can’t veto agreements that directly affect them.
Prosecutors formally charged her today in this case. They confirmed that they have the evidence they need in order to take the case to trial. Now the state’s attorney and the City of Santa Cruz have 13 days to present an appeal or a civil suit alleging moral and economic damages. These actions would be added to the prosecutor’s case.
Martínez said that the city is the most direct victim of the alleged crime because it lost ¢84 million.
He added that the Attorney General’s Office could request three to six years of jail time for María Rosa López for illegal enrichment and eight years for promoting the legislation.
Lopez said in a phone interview that she hopes the judge will make a decision in her case.