President of Honduras’ Brother Arrested, Charged With Drug Trafficking in United States

November 27, 2018 Updated: November 27, 2018

One of the brothers of the current president of Honduras was arrested and charged with drug trafficking and weapons charges, United States officials announced on Nov. 26.

Antonio “Tony” Hernandez, a former Honduran congressman and a brother of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, was arrested on Nov. 23, officials said while announcing the charges.

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) said that Hernandez and other politicians and law enforcement officials helped multiple drug-trafficking organizations in Honduras send loads of cocaine from the country to other countries, including Colombia, with the ultimate destination of the United States, in return for bribes.

“From at least in or about 2004, up to and including in or about 2016, Hernandez was involved in processing, receiving, transporting, and distributing multi-ton loads of cocaine that arrived in Honduras via planes, go-fast vessels, and, on at least one occasion, a submarine. Hernandez had access to cocaine laboratories in Honduras and Colombia, at which some of the cocaine was stamped with the symbol ‘TH,’ i.e., ‘Tony Hernandez,'” the DEA stated.

“Hernandez also coordinated and, at times, participated in providing heavily armed security for cocaine shipments transported within Honduras, including by members of the Honduran National Police and drug traffickers armed with, among other weapons, machine guns.”

In one case, Hernandez met with Devis Maradiaga, the former leader of the drug trafficking organization known as the Cachiros, for a meeting.

Brother of Honduras president charged with cocaine trafficking
Picture taken on September 2017 of the brother of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez and (then) deputy for the ruling Partido Nacional de Honduras, Juan Antonio Hernandez. – Juan Antonio Hernandez, allegedly involved in a drug trafficking investigation, was arrested in Miami, in the United States, on Nov. 23, 2018, the Honduran government informed. (Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images) 

$50,000 Bribe

Video and audio obtained by DEA agents showed that Hernandez agreed to help the criminal in return for $50,000.

Maradiaga, testified last year in New York that Tony Hernandez asked him for a bribe in exchange for government contracts. Rivera was trying to get Honduras’ government to pay its debts to a company his cartel used to launder money.

In a statement after the testimony, Tony Hernandez denied involvement in illegal activities and said he was “at the disposition of Honduran or international justice for any investigation.”

He noted that he’d given voluntary testimony to U.S. authorities in Miami in 2016 and testified to Honduras’ Public Ministry last year.

“I reaffirm strongly that I am ready to collaborate with any investigation that is carried out in a serious fashion,” he said. “And like I did before, I am ready to present myself again to authorities in the United States if it is required because he who doesn’t owe, doesn’t fear.”

Hernandez, 40, was charged with conspiring to import cocaine into the United States, using and carrying machine guns during the conspiracy, conspiracy to use and carry machine guns and destructive devices to further the conspiracy, and lying to federal agents.

‘No One is Above the Law’

The first count carries a sentence of at least 10 years, and up to life, in prison; the second count carries a sentence of at least 30 years, and up to life, in prison.

If convicted of the third count, Hernandez faces up to life in prison. The fourth count has a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

“Drug trafficking and corruption around the world threatens the rule of law, fuels violence and instability, and harms innocent families and communities,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Raymond Donovan, who leads the Special Operations Division, in a statement.

“Hernandez and his criminal associates allegedly conspired with some of the world’s most deadly and dangerous transnational criminal networks in Mexico and Colombia to flood American streets with deadly drugs. DEA looks forward to Hernandez facing American justice and answering for his alleged crimes.”

After his brother’s arrest Friday, the president’s administration reiterated an earlier statement that “no one is above the law, and every person must have the right to a legitimate defense and be presumed innocent.”

The statement also said that the president maintains that everyone is responsible for his or her actions and can’t shift accountability to other people. The government said it would see that justice was carried out with “absolute openness and strict observance to the law.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 From NTD News

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