Justice Department

Former Honduran president extradited to US for drug trafficking

Juan Orlando Hernández, who served as president of Honduras for eight years, was extradited arrived in New York on Thursday to face charges that technically a major attempt to flood America with cocaine.

Rare extradite a former head of state followed the arrest of Hernández in February at his home in Tegucigalpa less than a month after he resigned. The Justice Department accused him of participating in a violent drug trafficking operation that transported 500 tons of cocaine from Venezuela and Colombia to the United States via Honduras.

“We allege that Hernández corrupted legitimate public institutions in the country – including parts of the national police, the military and the National Congress,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said on Thursday. . “And we allege that Hernández worked closely with other state officials to protect cocaine shipments to the United States. Because of these alleged crimes, communities in the United States have suffered, and so have the people of Honduras. “

The allegations say he received millions of dollars to shield drug traffickers from arrest, including from the former leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, known as El Chapo, and to facilitate the their shipment.

An unsealed grand jury indictment on Thursday said Hernández used the money “to enrich himself, finance his political campaigns and commit voter fraud.” , including in connection with the 2013 and 2017 Honduras presidential elections.

He “abused his position as president of Honduras to run the country like a drug nation, to enrich himself, and to corrupt to gain and maintain power,” the allegation said.

This year, the former president said on social media that the US charges were based on claims by “drug dealers and assassins who confessed to having been extradited by my government. “

A Honduran judge ruled last month that Hernández could be extradited to the US After arriving in New York, Hernandez will be taken to a federal courtroom in Manhattan to formally face charges.

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Juan Antonio Hernández, the former president’s brother, was sentenced to life in prison last year after being convicted of drug trafficking and weapons violations. During that trial, federal prosecutors said then-President Hernández agreed to use the country’s military to provide security for drug traffickers.

Hernández’s extradition marks one of the few times a former head of state has been brought to the US to face charges. In 1990, Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega was arrested for drug trafficking during a US military operation. He was convicted in federal court in Miami. Noriega died in 2017 at Santo Tomas Hospital in Panama City. He was 83 years old.

Michael Kosnar contribute.

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