Narco says he gave to Honduran president’s early campaign

Claudia Torrens
Associated Press

New York – A Honduran drug trafficker testified Thursday that he gave $40,000 to Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernández in 2005 for the congressional campaign of his brother, who is now the president of Honduras.

Trafficker Victor Hugo Diaz Morales said that with Tony Hernández’s help he moved more than 150 tons of cocaine through Honduras between 2004 and 2016. Diaz said Hernández asked him for the money, explaining that with his brother in office, he could make government connections and help traffickers.

FILE - In this March 16, 2017 file photo, Juan Antonio "Tony" Hernandez, brother of Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernandez, arrives for a press conference in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Jury selection in the drug trafficking trial of Tony Hernandez began Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019, in U.S. federal court in Manhattan. U.S. prosecutors allege the 41-year-old used his government connections to smuggle U.S.-bound cocaine through Honduras.

U.S. prosecutors allege Hernández capitalized on his government connections to move tons of U.S.-bound drugs through the country. President Juan Orlando Hernández, who is serving his second term, was previously president of the country’s congress.

Prosecutors say Juan Orlando Hernández received at least $1.5 million for his 2013 presidential campaign from drug traffickers. In exchange, the traffickers moved their shipments without government interference, prosecutors say.

The president has vehemently denied the allegations, noting that he helped usher in the agreement that allowed for the extradition of drug traffickers to the U.S. He says that move is why traffickers are seeking their revenge now with false allegations.

Juan Orlando Hernández has been named a co-conspirator in his brother Tony Hernández’s case, but does not face charges.

U.S. prosecutors also showed jurors photos of notebooks seized from a known drug trafficker apparently logging drug shipments and payments that included the name of the president’s brother.

The ledgers were taken after the arrest of Nery Orlando López Sanabria last year in Honduras along with guns, cash, a radio and jewelry, prosecutors said.

The revelations came during the second day of Tony Hernández’s drug trafficking trial.

Honduran detective Miguel Reynoso testified the notebooks appeared to document drug shipments.

On the trial’s first day, prosecutor Jason Richman said the government would show that drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman personally gave $1 million to Tony Hernández for his brother.

Tony Hernández denies the allegations against him, though prosecutors say he volunteered substantial information during an initial interview with investigators.

His brother addressed reporters in Honduras’ capital Thursday without taking questions.

“In the coming days, like happened yesterday in a New York trial, a series of novelistic stories are going to be emitted from drug traffickers who see an ideal opportunity in this trial of Juan Antonio Hernández to attack the person responsible for their extraditions and imprisonment,” the president said.

The president said it was he who told his brother to first talk to U.S. authorities in 2016 when rumors were swirling about his involvement with drug traffickers.

President Hernández has managed to maintain a close working relationship with the U.S. government even as the legal case against his brother advanced.

Last week, on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, Honduras signed an agreement with the U.S. that would make it more difficult for asylum seekers crossing Honduras and Hernández met privately with President Donald Trump.

Associated Press writer Christopher Sherman in Mexico City contributed to this report.