Fri, Mar 02, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Wife of ex-president of Honduras arrested for graft

Reuters, TEGUCIGALPA

Military and law enforcement officers escort Rosa Elena Bonilla, wife of former Honduran president Porfirio Lobo, in Tegucigalpa on Wednesday.

Photo: EPA-EFE

Police on Wednesday arrested the wife of former Honduran president Porfirio Lobo on corruption charges, including siphoning funds from social works programs for the poor, officials said.

Rosa Elena Bonilla was detained at her residence on the outskirts of the capital, Tegucigalpa, they said.

Police also arrested her brother-in-law and seized documents pertaining to graft accusations.

Bonilla and others had embezzled 16 million lempiras (US$674,720), said Ana Maria Calderon, interim head of the Organization of American States’ (OAS) Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras.

“Mrs Bonilla is accused, along with other former officials, of having created a money laundering network to hide money from the state that was earmarked for social works,” Calderon said.

Bonilla late last year denied the corruption allegations after voluntarily testifying before prosecutors in the case.

Her lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

Bonilla used part of the money to pay for family members’ educational fees and personal surgeries, Calderon said.

Corruption scandals have led to a string of arrests in Central America in recent years, thanks to growing pressure from activists and backing from foreign powers.

Bonilla was detained a day after US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley visited Honduras to talk about drug trafficking and corruption.

Among the funds suspected of being embezzled were about US$255,000 donated by Taiwan in 2013 for medical equipment, building materials for poor families and job programs, officials said.

Bonilla is also being investigated by prosecutors for suspected anomalies in US$330,000 that was designated for the purchase of shoes and uniforms for poor children, officials said.

The head of an anti-corruption commission backed by the OAS earlier this month resigned, citing a lack of support from authorities.

Lobo was elected in late 2009 after a military coup ousted then-president Manuel Zelaya, and he served until 2014.

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