After years of unsuccessful attempts to hold Nicaragua’s venal electoral chief accountable to widespread allegations of corruption and malfeasance, a group of citizen activists is trying once again to put Roberto Rivas’ feet to the fire.
Following a series of reports published this week in La Prensa chronicling how the mischievous magistrate allegedly managed to avoid paying taxes on a fleet a luxury cars imported in 2009, a group calling themselves the “Group of Democratic Citizens and Lawyers” filed a formal complaint today with Nicaragua’s de facto Comptroller General demanding a full investigation of “illegal exonerations” on six luxury vehicles imported in the names of Rivas’ wife and daughter in 2009.
The group alleges that the government lost tens of thousands of dollars in tax revenue by not charging Rivas the full amount owed on his Cadillac Escalade, Jeep Wrangler, Land Rover LR3, Mercedes Benz GL 450, Volkswagen Toureg, and Volvo XC90.
Journalist Moises Martinez, who has been investigating the rapacious Rivas since 2005, says the citizen group got only half the story right. The scandal is much bigger than they realize, Martínez claims.
“In 2009, Roberto Rivas imported a total of 14 luxury vehicles in the name of his wife, daughter and two sons. Thirteen of those vehicles were imported on the same day, Feb. 16, 2009,” Martínez told The Nicaragua Dispatch today. “The total commercial value of all the vehicles he imported that year was $418,000.”
Martínez says his investigation found that Rivas evaded nearly $200,000 in import taxes that year.
The portly magistrate’s favorite luxury vehicle appears to be his pimped out BMW SUV, which he can often be seen driving around town accompanied by police motorcade—the only serious way to travel for the magistrate on the go.
Rivas has not commented on the latest scandal.
Does Rivas get a free pass in Nicaragua?
For more than a decade, Rivas has made headline news in Nicaragua and Costa Rica for alleged acts of corruption and enrichment. In addition to being accused of rigging the past three elections to benefit his Sandinista handlers, Rivas, who is forbidden to travel to the United States, has also been accused of amassing a monstrous personal fortune that includes two planes, various multi-million dollar mansions in Costa Rica, Managua, Playa Hermosa and San Juan del Sur, a yacht, a private island, and fleet of luxury cars bigger than most used car lots. Indeed, Rivas does not seem to be struggling to make ends meet on his government salary.
Despite Rivas’ flamboyantly lavish lifestyle, no one in the government seems interested in trying to figure out how the public servant became so wealthy. Instead, the Sandinista government has increased the police security detail assigned to protect Rivas, who is a family friend of President Daniel Ortega and the protégée of Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo.
In an interview with The Nicaragua Dispatch last year, de facto Comptroller General Guillermo Argüello Poessy essentially admitted that Rivas is above the law. The Comptroller said he tried to audit Rivas in the wake of previous corruption scandals but was blocked from doing so by the other four comptrollers who insisted on protecting him from investigation.