Former Director of Puerto Rican AIDS Program Pleads Innocent to Charges of Perjury, Obstructing Justice During 1999 Embezzlement Trial
Rafael Pagan Santini, former director of the Puerto Rico Community Network for Clinical Research on AIDS, on Friday pleaded innocent to charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and fabrication of evidence stemming from a 1999 embezzlement trial, AP/Newsday reports. Santini was arrested three weeks ago in Mexico and extradited to the United States. He returned to Puerto Rico on Thursday to enter his plea. Santini and his lawyer Hector Luis Marquez were also charged with witness tampering during the trial, which resulted in the conviction of Yamil Kouri, the former director of the San Juan AIDS Institute, and 11 others on charges of diverting $2.2 million in federal funds into false corporations and personal bank accounts for personal use or political campaigns. Santini and Marquez are currently charged with inventing evidence that the institute spent some of the money on AIDS medications purchased in Mexico. That evidence was countered by testimony at the trial. The 1999 trial "shook" Puerto Rican politics, and former Gov. Pedro Rossello was "forced" to take the stand to deny allegations that he accepted some of the embezzled money. He was never charged in connection with the case. Kouri is serving 14 years in a federal prison in New Jersey in connection with the crime (AP/Newsday, 8/18).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.