Honduran Judge Orders Arrest of 38 Lawmakers, Officials for Graft

A Honduran judge on Saturday ordered the arrest of 38 Hondurans, including lawmakers, officials and individuals, accused of diverting more than US$11.7 million to finance political campaigns in the 2013 elections, EFE reported according to a judicial source.

The arrest warrants were issued by Judge Lidia Álvarez, before whom the accused must appear Monday at a hearing the judicial spokesman who requested anonymity told EFE.

Álvarez will know the first stage of the case process, known as “Pandora”, which involves 38 people, including lawmakers, public officials and private individuals.

The Honduran authorities have not specified how many lawmakers are accused, nor their identities, nor whether they have been notified of the summons or whether or not they are in the country, as well as the rest of those mentioned.

All are accused of alleged “abuse of authority, fraud, embezzlement, money laundering, falsification and use of public documents to the detriment of public administration, public faith and the economy of the State of Honduras,” according to the complaint filed on June 13 by the Special Prosecutor’s Unit Against Corruption and Impunity of the Public Prosecutor’s Office (Ufecic).

The same source told EFE that the judge also summoned former mayor of the Honduran town of Yoro Arnaldo Urbina Soto, prisoner for money laundering since 2014, and the legal representatives of former Finance Minister William Chong Wong, who died on June 17 because of a cancer he suffered for several months.

Urbina Soto, who held the post between 2009 and 2014, is accused of having operated a drug trafficking organization, and Chong Wong have also been implicated in the “pandora” case.

The case was investigated by a team of experts from Ufecic and from the Mission of Support Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (Maccih) of the Organization of American States (OAS), following a complaint by Pietro Di Battista, an Italian investor and former Honorary Consul on the Honduran island of Roatán.

Felix Avila, defense lawyer for several of the defendants, told reporters that he heard of the arrests warrants from reports on news outlets, stressing that his clients would be willing to  “voluntarily” present themselves to the court at any time./teleSUR