Honduras: US has no drug proof against Honduran president

NEW YORK (AP) — The Honduran government says that U.S. federal court documents show no incriminating evidence against President Juan Orlando Hernández, despite listing him as being a target of a Drug Enforcement Administration investigation.

Revelations of the investigation prompted Hernández’s office to issue a statement Thursday saying that drug traffickers who had been caught and extradited to the U.S. by Hernández in 2015 falsely accused the president and some of his closest advisers of drug trafficking and money laundering activities.

It said the U.S. government was then forced to investigate those allegations but found no evidence of wrongdoing by the president. A court document filed on Tuesday “shows no precedents linking president Hernández or his officials to drug trafficking, “the Honduran statement said.

Neither U.S. prosecutors nor the DEA have commented on the status of the investigation into Hernández, which was revealed in documents filed in the Southern District of New York as part of pre-trial motions in the case of one of Hernández’s brothers, Juan Antonio Hernández. There is no evidence of any charges against the president, however.

The documents mentioned that President Hernández was among a group of individuals investigated by the DEA since about 2013 for allegedly participating “in large-scale drug-trafficking and money laundering activities relating to the importation of cocaine into the United States”.

Hernández was elected president of Honduras in late 2013.

One of the documents is a July 2015 request for the court to compel Apple, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL to give investigators email header information — though not email content — for a number of accounts. Two of the accounts are believed to belong to President Hernández, the document says.

The statement released by Honduran officials said that the DEA investigation had concluded and that’s why officials were able to make the document public.

A DEA spokeswoman referred questions from The Associated Press to the Southern District of New York, where a spokesman said the court’s response to the application is not public information and declined to comment further.

The Honduran statement said the DEA has a good relationship with Hernández. It also said the Honduran president is implementing a new strategy to combat drug trafficking in Honduras that has already resulted in shutting down several big drug trafficking rings.

The 2015 document sought email header information on accounts of the president’s sister Hilda Hernández, his adviser Ebal Díaz and his security minister, Julián Pacheco Tinoco.

Hilda Hernández, who helped manage the finances of the president’s political party and his presidential campaign, died in a December 2017 helicopter crash. The request also named four members of the wealthy and politically connected Rosenthal family.

Yani Rosenthal, a former national lawmaker and presidential candidate, pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court in 2017 for money laundering for the Cachiros drug trafficking organization.