Thursday, September 7, 2017

Maccih investigating Porfirio Lobo Sosa

The spokesperson for the Misión de Apoyo Contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad (MACCIH), Juan Jimenez Mayor, told the listening audience yesterday on the TV program Frente a Frente in Honduras that MACCIH is investigating the accusations made during the trial of Fabio Lobo in the United States that his father, then President, Porfirio Lobo Sosa, took bribes from the Los Cachiros drug cartel to avoid extradition or investigation by the National Police.

The accusations against Lobo Sosa were made by Devis Rivera Maradiaga, one of the former heads of the Los Cachiros narcotics cartel in Honduras during Fabio Lobo's trial.

Jimenez Mayor backed off his initial statement a bit, saying that he wasn't indicating Lobo Sosa was guilty of anything, just that the accusation was being investigated.

Jimenez Mayor told Frente a Frente that MACCIH was also investigating accusations against ex-First Lady, Rosa Elena de Lobo and other connected people in the country.  He also mentioned the IHSS corruption case where he said MACCIH was particularly interested in the DIMESA case, which had the most important contract with Mario Zelaya and he hoped it would be brought to trial soon.
"Our focus is on networks of corruption, both public and private", Jimenez Mayor said.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Yankel Rosenthal pleads guilty to money laundering

On August 29 of this year, Yankel Rosenthal plead guilty to money laundering through corrupt real estate deals in the United States, specifically that he took money from the Los Cachiros Cartel, and used it to buy real estate in the United States for them.  Rosenthal told the court he atttempted to help a friend buy the real estate, even though he knew the friend provided services to the drug traffickers, but that the purchase never happened.

Rosenthal is the former Investment Minister in the government of Juan Orlando Hernandez in Honduras.  He is the nephew of former Vice President Jaime Rosenthal Oliva

Prosecutors say they could have proved additional charges if the case had gone to trial; instead they reached a plea deal with Yankel Rosenthal.  They allege that Rosenthal used over $500,000 of drug money to invest in the popular soccer team, Marathon, in San Pedro Sula.  They allege Rosenthal solicited a bribe in 2013 from a US Oil exploration company in return for permission to explore for oil in Honduras.

Yankel Rosenthal Coello will be sentenced in January, 2018.

Fabio Lobo Sentenced to 24 years, fined $50,000

Fabio Lobo was sentenced yesterday to 24 years in a federal prison, fined $50,000, and agreed to forfeit a further $267,000 for conspiring to bring cocaine into the United States.  Fabio Lobo is the son of ex-Honduran President Porfirio Lobo Sosa.

Acting US Attorney Joon H. Kim stated that Fabio Lobo had sought out drug traffickers with offers of assistance with the intention of enriching himself.  He continued:
"Lobo used his father's position and his own connections to bring drug traffickers together with corrupt police and government officials."

During the trail testimony was offered that among those corrupt officials was the current Minister of Security, Julian Pacheco Tinoco, and his own father, then President Porfirio Lobo Sosa.  The DEA alleges that Los Chachiros paid over $500,000 in bribes to then President Porfirio Lobo Sosa to avoid extradition to the United States and to avoid investigation by Honduran police.

Lobo, whose lawyer says he will file an appeal of the sentence as "overly harsh", will serve his sentence in a Federal prison near Orlando,  Florida, to facilitate access by his family.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Jorge Barralaga Hernandez Arrested for Money Laundering

Former Tegucigalpa Police Commander Jorge Barralaga Hernandez was arrested and his home was confiscated.  He is accused of money laundering.

Barralaga rose to fame in October, 2011, because he allowed the four policemen accused of killing 4 university students, including rector Julietta Castellanos's son, to be freed from jail, allowing them to then flee.  At the time Baralaga was in charge of District 1 of Tegucigalpa and the four policemen, Sub Inspector Carlos Galeas Cruz and policemen Wilfredo Figueroa Velasquez, Arnulfo Padilla Roderiguez, and José Ruben Pozo, were under arrest in District 1 for the crime of murdering four university students.  Even though a court had ordered them held, in October, 2011 he released them, and they fled into the countryside.  For this action he was fired.

In 2012 he filed a legal appeal, seeking reinstatement and back pay; that case was never heard and remains open.  In 2013 he was accused and had an initial audience in court for abuse of authority along with Marco Tulio Palma in freeing the four accused of killing the university students.  That case remains untried.  As early as 2010 a police investigation found that Barralaga, then serving in the border Department of Copan,  had illicit income from corrupt sources, probably drug running, but high levels of the National Police, including Juan Carlos "El Tigre" Bonilla, sat on the investigation and allowed Barralaga to continue to serve and be promoted.

Baralaga was arrested this morning and his house confiscated.  He is accused of money laundering.  The police are still investigating the source of the 27 million Lempiras ($1.2 million) he has in personal bank accounts.

Friday, July 14, 2017

MACCIH to investigate DESA, government contracts, funding

The Misión de Apoyo Contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad en Honduras (MACCIH) announced Thursday that it would begin investigating, not the murder of indigenous activist Berta Cáceres, but the funding and government contracts of DESA, the company building the Agua Zarca dam for possible corruption and money laundering.

Mission spokesperson, Juan Jimenez Mayor announced the OAS mission would look into DESA, how it got its government contracts for the Agua Zarca dam and ENEE electricity purchase, and how it grew from a company with less than $1000 in capital in 2009 to have over $17 million in 2014.  In particular, Jimenez Mayor said the Mission wanted to verify the source of the funds, and whether DESA was money laundering.

Another aspect of the Agua Zarca project that Jimenez Mayor said was interesting was the awarding of the original environmental license in 2010, and the enlarged project environmental license in 2011.  The latter, approved by Dario Roberto Cardona, then sub secretary of the Secretaria de Recursos Naturales y Ambiente (SERNA).  Jimenez Mayor noted that while Cardona was being prosecuted for issuing the expanded environmental license in 2011 without proper consultation with the indigenous communities around Agua Zarca, he wondered why the issuer of the first environmental license, then Minister Rigoberto Cuellar, was not being investigated for the same crime since the same problem exists with the first environmental license issued in 2010. 

Jimenez Mayor also pointed to Congress, and its approval of an electricity buying contract from DESA to ENEE that called for ENEE to purchase more electricity than initially agreed on.

DESA denies there was an increase in its electricity production licensed by Cardona, and maintains it properly consulted with the municipality through open meetings, and that ILO 169 has not been codified into Honduran law.

The Agua Zarca project remains suspended.  The recent withdrawal of two of the international funding agencies (the Netherlands Development Bank (FMO) and the Finland Fund for Industrial Cooperation (FINFUND)) has not resulted in its cancelation because much of the funding comes from the Banco Interamericano de Integración Económica (BCIE) which has not withdrawn its support.

TPS and DACA to End This Year

Luis Gutierrez, a Congress person from Illinois, as part of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, met with John Kelly, head of Homeland Security earlier this month.  The caucus learned that Kelly intends to end both Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program this year, opening hundreds of thousands of "Dreamers" and legally present temporary residents to immediate deportation.  Gutierrez issued a statement saying:
"Secretary Kelly determines the future of TPS and basically told us he is not sure if he will extend it for hundreds of thousands of people. He also said that the future of DACA is up to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, America’s leading advocate against immigration, so Kelly was basically telling us DACA is facing a death sentence.  They actually want to take millions of people who are documented – with our own government – make them undocumented, and then go after them and their families. " .......
Trump, Sessions and Kelly want to take 800,000 DREAMers with DACA and hundreds of thousands with TPS who are registered with the government and in compliance with the law and make them into criminals, felons, and deportees in the next few months. 

Gutierrez says he was told DACA will end in September.  Kelly already has revoked the Temporary Protected Status of 55,000 Haitians, who have until September to leave the US.  After that they will be prosecuted.  Gutierrez says Kelly intends to next end the TPS for Central Americans

Saturday, June 10, 2017

RNP Budget May Disenfranchise Votes

The Hernandez administration cut the budget of the Registro Nacional de Personas (RNP) which issues official identity cards by $170 million lempiras this year.  As a direct result, up to 1,000,000 Honduran voters, who need the card for the next election, may not be able to vote.

The Executive branch in Honduras proposes a budget, and Congress approves it, making the changes it deems appropriate.  The RNP required, by its estimation, $370 million lempiras (aprox. $17.7 million) to cover its costs this, an election year.  This includes the funding for new identity cards for 1.5 million citizens, including the more than 330,000 teenagers who became eligible to vote this year.  However, it was assigned a budget $200 million lempiras ($9.5 million) by the Executive branch, augmented by $39 million lempiras ($1.9 million) of a budget that Congress allocated for it to dispense with the fees charged for citizens who ask for a new identity card.

That budget only allowed funding for 500,000 new identity cards, of which 330,000 will be new voters.  Yet the demand is for another 1,000,000 identity cards, which the RNP cannot make because it lacks the funds to make them.  In the first 4 months of the year, the RNP made and distributed 700,000 new identity cards.  Since then they've had to stop due to a lack of funding.

Nor have they kept quiet about the problem.  During the budgeting they listed 8 large projects that would make and distribute those identity cards to people without them having to come to a central place to collect them.  The Hernandez government did not request funding for any of them.  Hence the current problem.

So now, either 1,000,000 voters will be disenfranchised in November, or Congress will have to appropriate additional funds to the RNP, which may not have sufficient time to make and distribute that many identity cards.