Three years ago Costa Rica was at the doors of something revolutionary. A new administration put an end to eight years of corruption scandals, strikes and mismanagement of the public treasury. The new government promised a serious change in the foundations of democracy.
The merits of this work brought power to new faces in the political field. In 2014, arrived one of these to congress. A doctor, and lawyer from Buenos Aires de Puntarenas, settled in one of the wings of the Legislative Assembly with the intention of developing ideas for the greater good of the country.
Sitting in his office one day, deputy-elect Marvin Atencio, wanting to commensurate with the philosophy of his government, had the idea to legalize medical cannabis.
This is where the Project of Law 19256 arrises, with the goal of regulating medical cannabis and industrial hemp in Costa Rica. The initiative was presented in August 2014 after consultations with civil representatives, businessmen and scholars on the subject at both a national and international level.
Consultations were essential towards the development of the project as on a national level the subject was regarded quite ignorantly. Atencio knew that if he spoke of “recreational cannabis” he would never receive the support from other political parties that had already been complicating matters within his political party.
The first text proposed for the cannabis law excluded the topic of smoking, prioritizing the use of pills, ointments, and oils. As well as always taking into account cannabis strains with moderate levels of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), as a medicinal essence.
The law on cannabis was assigned to the Committee on Legal Affairs chaired by the following members: Edgardo Araya, Frente Amplio (FA), Marco Redondo, Citizen Action (PAC), Marvin Atencio (PAC), Antonio Álvarez Desanti (PLN), José Alfaro (Libertarian Movement, ML) and Juan Jiménez Succar (PLN).
Internally, some congressmen showed interest; mainly due to the money the medical cannabis industry would generate. On one hand, Alfaro (ML) having 772 taxi plates to the name of his wife, with an interest in participating in a law which regulates taxi license holders (Nation 12/12/2014). And on the other hand, Juan Jiménez Succar (PLN), allegedly accustomed to benefiting from “grand gestures of friendship” within the parlement. (Nation 2/27/2016)
To much surprise, not only was the interest seen within the congress but several public institutions stepped forward in support of the initiative, even contributing ideologically to the growth of the project.
These public institutions include: the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS), the Ministry of Health, the College of Physicians and Pharmacists and other competent entities. Despite unexpected national support, other members consulted by Atencio remained unhappy.
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Despite unexpected national support, other members consulted by Atencio remained unhappy. Amongst these politician Gerald R. Murray whose temper has created friction within Atencio’s office.
After Murray’s short participation within several political parties such as National Liberation (PLN), Libertarian Movement (ML), New Generation (PNG), he proceeded to accuse Atencio of plagiarizing the project of law he had presented in congress. The accusation created a show within the media and consequently a conflict ending in insults.
With this, Congressman Atencio shuns Murray.
But for Murray, medical cannabis means money…
In November of 2014, the law that would regulate medicinal cannabis in Costa Rica was almost approved within the committee. However, Murray took advantage of his political contacts. In private meetings Murray approached Juan Jiménez Succar (PLN) and José Alfaro (ML), old political acquaintances, and promised them a great deal…
A business whose revenues would be money and paid travels.
With this, Congressmen Jiménez Succar, president of the commission, presented a motion inviting Gerald Murray, owner of Facebook page Marihuana Medicinal Costa Rica, to give his opinion on the project of law.
What is Succar and Alfaro’s sudden interest in a person who represents nothing more than a Facebook page?
Simply as behind Murray’s act, were also two Americans, Thomas Reeves and Timothy Morales (as seen in the photograph from left to right), interested in the profit that would be generated by the commercial licenses of cannabis proposed in the Project of Law 19256.
From the draft of a “text of law” presented by Murray on January 14, the congressmen emphasised the augmentation in price of the licenses, which as of November 2016 is up to $300,000, more than the double of the original amount.
The Great International
Scam Thereafter, was originated what could be classified as an international million dollar scam through the illegal sale and distribution of cannabis licenses. While congressmen debated on the price proposed in earlier debates, a fictitious company with the name of GreenLead Holdings Technologies scammed a series of people passing for the authorized governmental entity in charge of choosing international businessmen and advisors.
Behind this, Thomas Reeves and Gerald Murray.
The law was barely kicking off, however, the representatives Murray and Reeves affirmed that licences cost up to $1 million dollars for investors in the USA, Europe and Israel.
They promised the law would pass in December 2016, and with this they charged the victims for the permits and consultations.
“When the law passes the price will rise to $1 million dollars. I have 20 companies interested.” Reeves wrote to one of the victims of the scam.
The law did not pass, but the scam did. For this they resorted to the falsification of signatures such as the vice minister of health, María Esther Anchía, and the creation of fake documents they passed as official. They also had the money deposited in an alleged trust, TrustCo Bank, that is now being investigated.
At the moment MCN has not been able to confirm the following, but one of the victims said that the responsible of TrustCo affirmed GreenLeaf could have carried out this scam up to several million dollars.
The proof that currently exists link the fictitious Greenlead Holding with congressmen and other known politicians such as the president of the Legislative Assembly Jose Alfaro.
Chronology of the Scam
GreenLeaf Holdings Technologies operated firstly through e-mails written in English and signed by an supposed representative named Joseph Sánchez. These e-mails summarized the cannabis law and its benefits, in addition to pretending to be the authorized government officials of Guillermo Solís’ presidency for this job.
Sánchez’s argument parallels Murray’s, who by then was only prowling the corridors of the Assembly and traveling with the congressmen. This might explain Sanchez’ e-mails stating he is not alone but rather protected by one of the most powerful figures in the country.
Nothing more and nothing less than the current president of Congress, Jose Alfaro of the Libertarian Movement, who by the date of the first email (April 2016) was working as vice president of congress.
“My initial goal is to awake their interest and organize meetings with some key players in Costa Rica, along with the drafters of the law. Our key ally is a senator from Costa Rica who has just become the Vice-President of the Legislative Assembly, the second most powerful person in the country.” as explicitly mentioned in the e-mail.
Congressman Alfaro seemed to have been aware of these activities, as the content of the first e-mail received by MCN coincides with the activities the congressman was involved with in April 2016. Amongst these: a tour of the Tecnológico de San Carlos (TEC) to support the initiative of students with intentions of producing hemp derived biodiesel.
With him also participated Gerald Rojas Murray and a congresswoman from Frente Amplio, Ligia Fallas. There are videos and photographs of this activity.
Murray and Alfaro’s relationship as this point seemed quite solid. Both had done a “training trip” with congressmen from Colorado. This trip, supposedly financed by American Timothy Morales, and organized by Murray. The group said the funds were raised through sale of stickers and can openers.
In this trip, also participated Juan Jiménez Succar (PLN), Gonzalo Ramírez from Renovación Costarricense, Johnny Leiva del Partido Unidad Social Cristiana (PUSC) and Paulina Ramírez (PLN).
Evidence indicates that the personal interest of a small group of people overrode the initial aspirations of the cannabis law (19256), intended to help the national sickly. Hundreds have been left humbly adrift while other make millions through fake and illegal documents.
Although participation of congressman Edgardo Araya from Frente amplio, eliminated the exaggerated prices put in place by Murray, Alfaro and Succar, the scams had been done.
Are they all accomplices of GreenLeaf Holdings Technologies’ great international scam?
To be continued…