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Latin America & Caribbean

Accused Honduran drug trafficker conspired with President of Honduras, feds say

Geovanny Fuentes allegedly paid at least approximately $25,000 to Juan Orlando Hernández in exchange for protection from law enforcement and access to a cocaine laboratory strategically located near Honduras's largest port, according to a criminal complaint. Hernández ordered Fuentes to report directly to his brother, former congressman Tony Hernández, it adds. (Leer en español)
3 Mar 2020 – 01:20 PM EST
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President Juan Orlando Hernandez (l) and his brother Juan Antonio 'Tony' Hernandez (r) Crédito: Getty Images / David Maris / Univision

Geovanny Fuentes, 50, is accused of conspiring with high-ranking Honduran politicians and police, including President Juan Orlando Hernandez and his brother Juan Antonio ‘Tony’ Hernandez,’ to operate “unimpeded” a cocaine lab in Honduras and transport shipments of cocaine by air and sea.

DEA agents arrested Fuentes on Sunday at Miami International Airport as he attempted to depart the United States, according to a press release by the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York.

“As alleged, Geovanny Daniel Fuentes Ramirez was, up until his arrest by the DEA two days ago, a prolific, powerful, and murderous cocaine trafficker in Honduras,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman.

Fuentes, 50, allegedly reported directly to former congressman Tony Hernandez, who was found guilty in New York last year of drug trafficking and faces sentencing next month. Hernandez is the brother of Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernandez, who was named as an unindicted coconspirator.

The arrest of Fuentes appears to strengthen the case for a possible future indictment of President Hernandez, who currently enjoys effective immunity as a foreign head of state. But he could face prosecution after he steps down in 2022.

The latest accusations could complicate relations between the Honduran government and the Trump administration which considers President Hernandez a key ally in its crack down on immigration from Central America along the U.S. southern border.

Hernandez has emphatically denied all previous allegations against him saying they are based on the worthless testimony of self-confessed drug traffickers seeking to cooperate with prosecutors and gain revenge on Honduras authorities after their capture. In a tweet on Tuesday, Hernandez denied he had ever taken money from Fuentes, saying the accusation was "100% false."

"Unholy alliance"

The DEA and prosecutors in New York have spent years investigating what they call an “unholy alliance" of Honduran officials and drug traffickers.

“These corrupt arrangements resulted in horrible violence in Honduras and beyond. The DEA will continue to aggressively pursue and bring to justice those who participated in these activities,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Wendy Woolcock.

Cocaine lab

According to the criminal complaint based on an affadavit by DEA agent Ravi Baldeo, Fuentes helped establish and operate a cocaine laboratory in the Cortés Department of Honduras in 2009, which produced hundreds of kilos of cocaine each month.

The laboratory was raided by law enforcement in 2012 and Fuentes allegedly participated in the stabbing murder of a law enforcement official who he believed was involved in the investigating it.

In 2013, Fuentes paid at least approximately $25,000 to a high-ranking Honduran official referred to in the complaint as ‘CC-4,’ in exchange for protection from further interventions by law enforcement targeting his drug trafficking activities.

The complaint does not name President Hernandez directly, but rather lists him as 'CC-4', or Co-Conspirator-4. The context, however, leaves no doubt about his identity, stating that 'CC-4' is “the president of Honduras.”

Around the time of the bribe, during a series of meetings ‘CC-4’ allegedly “expressed interest in” the cocaine laboratory and “agreed to facilitate the use of Honduran armed forces personnel as security” for Fuentes’ operations, according to the indictment. ‘CC-4’ also “instructed Fuentes Ramirez to report directly to Juan Antonio Hernandez Alvarado for subsequent drug trafficking activities,” the complaint alleges.

Fuentes' name did not come up in the trial of Tony Hernandez and the charges against him appear to stem from evidence by a cooperating witness, jailed drug trafficker Devis Rivera Maradiaga, according to court documents obtained by Univision. Rivera Maradiaga, who was one of the leaders of the notorious 'Los Cachiros' drug gang, told prosecutors in May 2018, that Fuentes was involved in a cocaine lab near Omoa, near Puerto Cortes, the largest port on Honduras' north coast.

According to Rivera Maradiaga, a man named Melvin Sanders, who was president of a football club in the city of Choloma, was an associate in the cocaine lab. Sanders was later murdered in October 2013.

Rivera Maradiaga turned himself in to the DEA in January 2015 and testifed in the trial against Tony Hernandez. He plead guilty and has confessed to conspiring to kill at least 78 people. Rivera Maradiaga testified that he met with Tony Hernandez in February 2014 regarding money owed by the government to one of his front companies. Hernandez allegedly agreed to push the payments through in exchange for a $50,000 bribe. Maradiaga Rivera recorded the meeting and turned the tape over to the DEA.

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