New Corruption Case More Trouble for Embattled Former Honduras President

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A new investigation has involved Ramón Lobo Sosa, brother of former Honduras President Porfirio Lobo, in a corruption scheme that diverted funds from the president’s party to private individuals. This case further cinches the net around Lobo and his circle of loyalists, who are suspected of drug trafficking links.

On November 5, the Honduras Attorney General (MPH) filed an indictment with the Supreme Court against Ramón Lobo Sosa and Walter Francisco Cerrato Durón, former secretary of state for the administration and financial management of the president’s office. It stated that they were instructed to create “a framework to divert public money that was initially intended to use the security costs of the presidential household for personal benefit.”

The MPH investigation carried out jointly with the Mission Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (Misión de Apoyo contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad en Honduras – MACCIH), indicated that Lobo Sosa and Cerrato Durón embezzled around $350.000 (8.4 million lempiras).

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Cerrato Durón, who held the rank of minister, was the administrator of funds for use at the discretion of Porfirio Lobo during his entire presidential term (2010-2014). On January 21, 2011, Cerrato Durón opened two bank accounts from which he would run the security costs for the presidential household, budgeted at around $1.7 million (40 million lempiras).

From these two accounts, between 2010 and 2014, Cerrato Durón signed 84 checks for two individuals, now witnesses in the investigation, who have been identified by the MPH as Omega 1 and Alpha 1. Neither of these two individuals had any contract nor were they employed by the Honduran state, making the payments illegal, according to authorities.

Ramón Lobo, the president’s brother and accused by a member of the Los Cachiros drug trafficking gang of having collaborated with them, was in charge of endorsing the checks of the presidential household after depositing them in a personal account.

InSight Crime Analysis

This new case is being used by the MPH and the MACCIH to escalate legal pressure on the ex-president Porfirio Lobo, a veteran politician from the ruling National Party and whose family is facing multiple accusations of having collaborated with the most important organized crime groups in Honduras.

Fabio Lobo, his son, has been accused of being an accomplice of Los Cachiros. Rosa Elena de Lobo, the former first lady, is being investigated for potential embezzlement of $500,000.

The latest investigation further confirms the deep infiltration of corruption and organized crime among Honduran political elites. But this case also points to embezzlement having taken place within the heart of the Honduran presidency, which was unclear until now.

In neighboring El Salvador, the misuse of funds by the office of the president has led to two corruption cases against former presidents, Antonio Saca and Mauricio Funes. Between them, according to the indictments, just over $700 million were embezzled, equivalent to the country’s fiscal deficit in 2017. Saca is now serving a 10-year sentence for corruption and Funes is a fugitive from justice.

In the Honduran case, the MPH and MACCIH have been investigating the links between the Cachiros and other drug trafficking groups with political elites, as well as cases of corruption implicating national deputies from across the political spectrum. However, this is the first case to reach the epicenter of political power.

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