Eight former top ranking Honduran police officials are under investigation for alleged illicit enrichment, raising the dilemma of how to reform an institution where corruption is rife at the highest levels.
The Honduran government comptrollers (Tribunal Superior de Cuentas) and police internal affairs investigators (Direccion de Investigacion y Evaluacion de la Carrera Policial) are investigating two former police chiefs and six retired general commissioners over financial irregularities.
The investigation has revealed the suspects have assets of around $3.7 million (74.5 million lempiras) that they have been unable to account for, reported La Prensa. Reports from investigations showed inconsistencies between the banks, companies, and properties owned by the officials and their declared income, suggesting the funds they invested “could come from the crime of illicit enrichment.”
Both former chiefs were previously removed from their posts as a result of police scandals. Jose Luis Muñoz Licona was removed in October 2011 following accusations that police murdered two university students, and his successor, Ricardo Ramirez del Cid, was replaced in May 2012, following accusations linked to the murder of a journalist.
InSight Crime Analysis
Attempts to reform the Honduran police have led to the administration of a range of confidence tests — including lie detectors, psychological assessments and drug tests — over the course of the past year. The reform process, however, has been slow, while conflicting statistics make it unclear how much progress is actually being made.
In May, the top levels of the command were also subjected to confidence testing, as well as background checks, indicating, as does the current investigation, recognition that changing the force will require purging corrupt leadership as well as regular officers.
The current police leadership is proving to be as controversial as the ex-chiefs under investigation. Police chief Juan Carlos Bonilla has been consistently accused of extrajudicial killings, and the United States has officially refused to send financial aid to units under his control because of the allegations, although in reality the money continues to flow.