An accountant witnessed conferences between Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández and a drug trafficker by which they deliberate the trafficking of cocaine to the U.S., federal prosecutors in New York mentioned Tuesday.
Assistant U.S. Lawyer Jacob Gutwillig mentioned throughout his opening assertion on the trial of accused Honduran drug trafficker Geovanny Fuentes Ramírez that the accountant was current when Hernández allegedly mentioned he wished to “shove the medicine proper up the noses of the gringos.'”
“They plotted to ship as a lot cocaine as potential to the US,” Gutwillig mentioned of the president and Fuentes Ramírez.
Fuentes Ramírez was arrested in March 2020 in Florida. He’s charged with drug trafficking and arms possession.
However a lot of the prosecutors’ artillery seems aimed toward Hernández, who they mentioned helped Fuentes Ramírez’s drug trafficking together with different high-ranking officers.
Hernández has beforehand denied any involvement with drug traffickers. He has not been charged.
“His operations thrived due to his connections. Mayors, congressmen, navy generals, police chiefs, even the present president of Honduras,” Gutwillig mentioned. “The defendant bribed all of them.”
The conferences allegedly occurred in 2013 and 2014, Gutwillig mentioned. The accountant, who prosecutors referred to as José Sánchez, ran a rice enterprise by which Fuentes Ramírez allegedly laundered drug proceeds. Sánchez will testify on the trial, the prosecutor mentioned.
Gutwillig described the “shock, the concern” that Sánchez had seeing Fuentes Ramírez assembly with the president. Considered one of Fuentes Ramírez’s protection attorneys later mentioned Sánchez wasn’t credible, suggesting the U.S. would approve his asylum software in trade for his testimony.
Prosecutors have beforehand mentioned that Fuentes Ramírez paid Hernández $25,000 to be allowed to maneuver medicine by the nation with out interference.
“Apparently $25,000 is all it takes to bribe the president,” protection lawyer Eylan Schulman mentioned.
In January, U.S. federal prosecutors filed motions within the Fuentes Ramírez case saying that Hernández took bribes from drug traffickers and had the nation’s armed forces defend a cocaine laboratory and shipments to the US.
The paperwork quote Hernández — recognized as co-conspirator 4 — as saying he wished to “‘shove the medicine proper up the noses of the gringos’ by flooding the US with cocaine.”
The president additionally emerged within the trial resulting in the 2019 conviction of considered one of his brothers, Juan Antonio Hernández. Throughout that trial, the president was accused of accepting greater than $1 million from Mexican drug trafficker Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán — an accusation repeated within the new motions.
Final month, one other submitting by prosecutors within the Fuentes Ramírez case appeared to substantiate for the primary time that Hernández was below investigation by U.S. authorities.
Hernández has lengthy denied any suggestion that he cooperated with or benefited from drug traffickers. Prosecutors allege that a lot of his political rise from president of the Congress to president was fueled by cash from drug traffickers, who paid in trade for cover and to keep away from interference from safety forces.
On Monday, Hernández asserted once more in a Twitter thread that he had waged conflict on drug trafficking, not aided it. He says that the allegations towards him come from drug traffickers in search of revenge and seeking to lighten their sentences.
He wrote that if drug traffickers are rewarded for lies, “the worldwide alliance (towards drug trafficking) would collapse with Honduras, then with varied nations.”
The trial’s first witness Tuesday was Drug Enforcement Administration agent Brian Fairbanks, who testified that among the many info present in Fuentes Ramírez’s mobile phone was Hernández’s cellphone quantity and his Gmail account.
Fairbanks additionally recognized Hernández smiling in images with the son and a brother of Fuentes Ramírez.
Fairbanks, who arrested Fuentes Ramírez, mentioned, nonetheless, he didn’t discover calls or textual content messages registered between the accused and the president.
Prosecutors displayed names of contacts listed in Fuentes Ramírez’s cellphone that included politicians, police, and high-ranking navy officers.
Final month, Democratic senators filed a invoice calling on President Joe Biden to impose sanctions on Hernández and “decide whether or not he’s a specifically designated narcotics trafficker.”
The invoice requires a suspension of safety assist to Honduras, seeks to ban the export of things corresponding to tear fuel, pepper spray, and rubber bullets for Honduran safety forces, and calls on the U.S. to oppose loans to these forces from multilateral growth banks.
It additionally calls on the Honduran authorities to speak to the United Nations about establishing an anti-corruption mission. Below Hernández, an analogous mission backed by the Group of American States was not renewed after it started to implicate plenty of federal lawmakers.
One of many prosecution’s key witnesses would be the former chief of the Cachiros cartel, Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga, who has admitted to involvement in 78 murders. Fuentes Ramírez’s legal professionals criticized the U.S. authorities for basing accusations on Rivera Maradiaga’s confessions.
“His testimony will make sick to your abdomen,” mentioned Schulman, who described Fuentes Ramírez as a great father of 4 youngsters who ran a lumber enterprise. He has mentioned Fuentes Ramírez had weapons and bodyguards as a result of Honduras is a harmful nation.
Considered one of Fuentes Ramírez’s sons is married to considered one of Rivera Maradiaga’s nieces.