Honduran president accused of taking bribes from drug trafficker

A US prosecutor accused Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernandez of assisting a drug trafficker smuggle tons of cocaine into the United States. This happened at the trial of accused drug trafficker Geovanny Fuentes Ramirez in New York.

Ramirez, 50, was arrested while trying to leave Miami in 2020, according to Reuters news agency. He has pleaded not guilty to drug smuggling.

Prosecutor Jacob Gutwillig said in court that the drug trafficker bribed president Hernandez for $ 25,000 in cash, making him “untouchable” to law enforcement in Honduras.

The charge is based on statements by witness Jose Sanchez, who said he attended meetings between the president and Fuentes Ramirez in 2013 and 2014, where plans to organize the smuggling of cocaine into the United States were discussed. Sanchez himself was an accountant and ran a business through which Ramirez laundered drug money.

In turn, the Ramirez’s defense said Sanchez’s statements weren’t credible, since he applied for political asylum in the United States.

According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent Brian Fairbanks appeared in court, claiming that Hernandez’s email address and phone number were found in Ramirez’s mobile phone, as well as photos of Ramirez’s brother and son with Hernandez.

Juan Orlando Hernandez has been in power since January 2014 and was re-elected in 2017. The president has strongly denied the charges.

In 2019, the president’s brother, Tony Hernandez, was brought to trial in New York on drug trafficking charges. However, Tony Hernandez’s sentencing hearing has been delayed several times, and is now scheduled for March 23.