US charges former Honduran police chief with drug trafficking

Washington (AFP)

Honduras’ former police chief was indicted in New York Thursday on drug trafficking charges as part of an investigation that previously implicated President Juan Orlando Hernandez.

Juan Bonilla Valladares, 60, is alleged to have used his position to protect cocaine shipments in transit to the United States in return for bribes, and of having organized a murder in June 2011, according to the indictment.

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez was alleged to have given cover for his brother's crimes
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez was alleged to have given cover for his brother’s crimes Orlando SIERRA AFP/File

A member of the Honduran police since 1985, Bonilla, nicknamed “El Tigre,” ran the force in 2012 and 2013.

According to court documents, he was part of a network of senior officials linked to drug trafficking, apparently including the Honduran president’s brother, Antonio “Tony” Hernandez.

Allegedly, it was at Tony Hernandez’s request that Bonilla oversaw the murder of a rival drug trafficker in 2011.

Hernandez was arrested in 2018 in Miami and tried in New York in October 2019.

The federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York, backed by the testimony of former drug traffickers, said Hernandez was involved in the shipment of some 200 tonnes of cocaine, thanks to his brother the president’s protection.

After a two week trial, Hernandez was convicted on four counts in a verdict denounced by the Honduran president.

The president hasn’t faced charges of his own.

Sentencing in that case had initially set for January, but has been pushed back to June 29.

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