WASHINGTON – Justice Department officials Thursday unnsealed drug trafficking and firearm charges against former Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernandez, accusing the disgraced leader as part of an effort to flood the US with tons of cocaine.
Federal officials allege that Hernandez “abused his positions in the Honduran government to partner with some of the largest and most violent drug traffickers in the world to traffic hundreds of thousands of kilograms of cocaine through Honduras for distribution in the United States.”
Hernandez was extradited to the US earlier Thursday to face charges in New York.
As part of the alleged conspiracy, prosecutors asserted that Hernandez received “millions of dollars from multiple drug trafficking organizations in Honduras, Mexico,” including from the convicted former leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, Joaquin Guzman Loera, known as “El Chapo.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland said the former president operated Honduras as “a narco-state.” Among the millions in alleged bribes, Garland said Hernandez received at least million 1 million from El Chapo.
“In return, drug traffickers in Honduras were allowed to operate with virtual impunity.” Garland said. We allege that Hernandez corrupted legitimate public institutions in the country – including parts of the national police, military, and national Congress.
“And we allege that Hernandez worked closely with other public officials to protect cocaine shipments bound for the United States.”
Among those officials, the former president’s brother, Tony Hernandez, a former Honduran congressman, was convicted in 2019 in Manhattan and sentenced to life in prison.
“Because of these alleged crimes, communities in the United States suffered, and the people of Honduras suffered,” Garland said.
Manhattan US Attorney Damian Williams described the level of public corruption that allegedly facilitated the operation as “breathtaking.”
Williams said the former president used the millions of dollars in bribes to finance a lavish lifestyle and finance his political campaigns.
The prosecutor said authorities had gathered direct evidence of Hernandez’s communications with co-conspirators, in which he allegedly expressed a goal in blunt terms: “To stuff the drugs right up the noses of the gringos.”