US charges Honduran president's brother over cocaine trafficking

World | 27 Nov 2018 5:13 pm

A brother of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez was charged in the U.S. on Monday with scheming for years to bring tons of cocaine into the country, with prosecutors calling him a big-time trafficker so enmeshed in the trade that the drug was sometimes stamped with his initials.

Federal prosecutors in New York announced drug conspiracy and other charges against Antonio "Tony” Hernandez, a former Honduran congressman. He has previously denied doing anything illegal.

He was appearing in court in Miami, where he was arrested Friday. His lawyer’s name wasn’t immediately available.

The drug-related corruption allegations that swirled around Tony Hernandez have cast a shadow over his brother’s government in a Central American country that is a major transit hub for cocaine.

Honduras is also the homeland of thousands of migrants who recently have been traveling toward and are now camping out at the U.S. border with Mexico, saying they are fleeing a poor economy and oppressive gang crime.

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.”

An indictment unveiled Monday charges Tony Hernandez with conspiracy, weapons possession and lying to U.S. authorities in a 2016 interview by saying he never aided or took money from drug traffickers.

"Tony Hernandez was involved in all stages of the trafficking” of multi-ton loads of U.S.-bound cocaine through Honduras, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement. Raymond Donovan, who heads U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration special operations, said the ex-congressman is accused of working with "some of the world’s most deadly and dangerous transnational criminal networks” to "flood American streets with deadly drugs.”

The indictment portrays Tony Hernandez as "a large-scale drug trafficker” involved for over a decade in receiving, processing and distributing coke that came from such countries as Colombia via planes, go-fast boats — and at least once, a submarine — and made their way through Honduras en route to the United States.-AP

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