An alleged drug trafficker whose ledgers proved key to convicting the Honduran president’s brother was brutally murdered in prison, leading to speculation that he would have been able to link drug money to the president himself.
Notes in Nery Orlando López’s ledgers recorded cocaine shipments to Juan Antonio “Tony" Hernández and included entries with the initials of President Juan Orlando Hernández.
On October 26, López, who changed his identity to Magdaleno Meza, was repeatedly shot and stabbed by a group of inmates jailed in the “El Pozo” maximum security prison in northeastern Honduras, Confidencial reported.
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Security camera footage [warning: graphic material] of the incident shows what appears to be a pre-meditated ambush. Meza is talking to two prison officials as a hooded guard goes to open a red sliding door. Once open, six inmates storm in, with one immediately firing a pistol at Meza’s head. The drug trafficker collapses as the gun-wielding prisoner keeps firing and the other convicts ward off the guards with blades.
Honduran prison authorities initially attributed the murder to an inmate brawl, whereas the government laid the blame on other drug traffickers. Meza’s lawyer, Carlos Chajtur, said he believes the video of the killing suggests a “plot by the penitentiary authorities and maybe higher level authorities,” the Associated Press reported.
Meza had been in prison since mid-2018 on money laundering and weapons charges, and was due for trial in 2020.
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Meza’s death silences a potential witness who may have had further information linking President Hernández and his National Party to drug proceeds -- an allegation that was repeatedly made during the trial of the president’s brother.
Chajtur told the Associated Press that he believed an extradition request was imminent for Meza. His extradition could have allowed the drug trafficker to elaborate on the notes in his ledgers, potentially further implicating President Hernández.
Nearly a dozen of Meza’s ledgers were used as evidence against Tony Hernández, who was convicted of state-sponsored drug trafficking in October of 2019. The ledgers, which showed cocaine shipments received and distributed by Hernández, were the most significant piece of physical evidence used in Hernández’s trial.
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The ledgers also showed a $440,000 payment to “JOH y su jente,” or JOH and his associates. It was unclear whether the letters were meant to signify the president, who has long been called by his initials.
Chajtur said he had made several requests for his client to be transferred to another prison after Meza began to receive death threats.
Meza had previously faked his own death, according to La Prensa. He was arrested in June 2018, at which time police found a secret compartment in his vehicle holding his ledgers.