Costa Rican court: Ex-president embezzled funds

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – A former Costa Rican president was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison Monday for embezzling funds from a Finnish loan intended for medical equipment for public hospitals.

Rafael Calderon, who was president from 1990-1994, was accused of receiving $520,000 from a 2004 Finnish government loan to Costa Rica's social security system. He still faces separate corruption charges.

The 60-year-old politician said he would appeal the court decision but is reconsidering a 2010 run for president. He has returned the money and says he received it as payment for consulting work.

"I'm in great shock," Calderon said. "All we have lost here is a battle but we will continue fighting."

Reading the verdict on national television, Judge Teresita Rodriguez said there was no proof Calderon did consulting work.

Prosecutors alleged that about $8 million of the $40 million loan, which was meant to buy medical equipment, was split among eight officials and political figures, including Calderon.

AFP/Armend Nimani