US asks for life in prison for brother of Honduran president

The US government wants Tony Hernandez to return $138.5m in ‘blood money’ and pay an additional $10m fine.

US prosecutors say Tony Hernandez corrupted the democratic institutions of Honduras to enrich himself by transporting cocaine into the US and selling weapons to drug traffickers [File: Fernando Antonio/AP Photo]

A brother of Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernandez should be sentenced to life in prison for running a “state-sponsored drug trafficking conspiracy” with the nation’s current leader, US federal prosecutors say in documents filed before a sentencing hearing scheduled next week.

Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernandez, a former Honduran congressman, was convicted in October 2019 of participating in a conspiracy to traffic in cocaine to the United States that involved the use of machineguns.

His sentencing, which has been delayed multiple times, is scheduled for Tuesday in New York.

A Honduran woman holding a sign outside the federal court in Manhattan in New York while Tony Hernandez’s case was in session [File: Claudia Torrens/AP Photo]

Documents filed by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York late on Tuesday, lay out Tony Hernandez’s criminal history, as well as the points where it overlapped with his brother, who served as the leader of Honduras’s National Congress before assuming the presidency in January 2014.

“The defendant was a Honduran congressman who, along with his brother Juan Orlando Hernandez, played a leadership role in a violent, state sponsored drug trafficking conspiracy,” prosecutors wrote.

The US government wants Tony Hernandez to give up $138.5m in “blood money” from his drug trafficking and pay an additional $10m fine.

“Over a fifteen-year period, the defendant corrupted the democratic institutions of Honduras to enrich himself by transporting at least 185,000 kilograms of cocaine – a staggering amount of poison that he helped import into the United States,” prosecutors wrote. They say he also sold weapons to drug traffickers, some of which came from Honduras’s military, and controlled drug laboratories in Colombia and Honduras.

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez speaking during a rally in his support after his brother Juan Antonio ‘Tony’ Hernandez was found guilty of US drug trafficking, outside the Presidential House in Tegucigalpa, Honduras [File: Jorge Cabrera/Reuters]

“Between 2004 and 2019, the defendant secured and distributed millions of dollars in drug-derived bribes to Juan Orlando Hernandez, former Honduran President Porfirio Lobo Sosa and other politicians associated with Honduras’s National Party,” prosecutors said.

They allege that among those bribes was $1m from notorious Mexican capo Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman to Juan Orlando Hernandez.

President Hernandez has repeatedly denied any ties to drug traffickers, as has Lobo, whose son is currently serving a 24-year prison sentence for drug trafficking in the US.

Neither president has been charged.

Source: AP