HomeNewsBriefHonduras Supreme Court Throws Out Historic Anti-Corruption Conviction
BRIEF

Honduras Supreme Court Throws Out Historic Anti-Corruption Conviction

ELITES AND CRIME / 18 MAR 2020 BY PARKER ASMANN EN

The Supreme Court of Honduras has thrown out an historic anti-corruption conviction against a former first lady, laying bare the uphill battle the country faces after the dismantling of its internationally-backed anti-graft body.

The announcement that fraud and embezzlement charges against former first lady Rosa Elena Bonilla de Lobo would be dropped came on March 13, when the Supreme Court also ordered that a new trial be held.

The wife of disgraced former President Porfirio Lobo, Bonilla de Lobo was first arrested in February 2018 in the capital Tegucigalpa before being convicted in August 2019 in connection to the “first lady’s petty cash” (Caja Chica de la Primera Dama) case.

SEE ALSO: Honduras News and Profiles

The investigation carried out by the National Anti-Corruption Council (Consejo Nacional Anticorrupción – CNA) with assistance from the Support Mission Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (Misión de Apoyo contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad en Honduras – MACCIH) and an anti-corruption unit of the Attorney General’s Office known as UFECIC (Unidad Fiscal Especial Contra la Impunidad de la Corrupción – UFECIC) accused the former first lady and others of diverting around 16 million lempiras (around $650,000) and creating a money laundering network to cover up stolen government funds meant for social projects.

The conviction marked a historic point for the anti-corruption body MACCIH, which was created in 2015 with the backing of the Organization of American States (OAS) before President Juan Orlando Hernández refused to extend its mandate in January 2020. The Honduran Congress, which is controlled by the ruling National Party, had also voiced its support for the decision. 

InSight Crime Analysis

The conviction of former first lady Bonilla was arguably the most emblematic conviction that MACCIH secured before being shut down in Honduras. Its reversal should serve as a real warning sign.

The MACCIH faced its fair share of obstacles from the start, but the anti-corruption body played an important role in combating corruption in a country that has become accustomed to business and political elites pilfering state institutions and stealing public funds.

One high-profile investigation dubbed the Pandora Case, for example, singled out dozens of officials from both the National and Liberal parties for diverting some $12 million from the Honduran treasury. Some of this cash stolen from government coffers went directly to funding efforts for President Hernández’s first successful bid for the presidency in 2013.

SEE ALSO: Honduras Anti-Corruption Probe Implicates President, Opposition

In its four years in operation, MACCIH members helped prosecute 133 people and investigate 14 cases, according to information from the OAS. President Hernández has said his government remains committed to combating corruption, but Bonilla de Lobo’s release and his own refusal to put any meaningful support behind the MACCIH’s renewal or broader anti-graft measures suggests otherwise.

The creation of the MACCIH was a much-needed step towards moving away from corruption as the “operating system” in Honduras, but the elites have fired back.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

EXTRADITION / 31 JAN 2012

Honduras has changed the law to allow the extradition of its citizens on drug trafficking and terrorism charges, raising concerns…

HONDURAS / 22 MAR 2016

A recent report highlighted critical problems within Honduras' prisons, where the prevalence of gang violence and deplorable conditions suggest that…

ARGENTINA / 5 SEP 2017

Authorities in Argentina are investigating everything from soccer matches and players' rights to investments in a crematorium as part…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution Met With Uproar

6 MAY 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime launched its latest investigation, Venezuela’s Cocaine Revolution¸ accompanied by a virtual panel on its findings. The takeaways from this three-year effort, including the fact that Venezuela…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…