A news investigation has linked the head of Honduras' congress to a major drug clan, exposing further connections between the country’s top government officials and its underworld.
The report, published by Central American magazine Expediente Público, details how Mauricio Oliva Herrera, president of the National Congress, allegedly acquired a series of properties in Tegucigalpa from a business associate at Inversiones Acrópolis, a company linked to a notorious Honduran drug trafficking family known as the Cachiros.
This news came as Oliva Herrera, of the National Party (Partido Nacional - PN), confirmed he would run for president of Honduras, ahead of elections in March 2021.
An associate, Luis Alfonso Deras, allegedly transferred ownership of an apartment to him in 2016, in exchange for 4 million lempiras (about $200,000), according to a contract notarized by former Cachiros lawyer and director of Inversiones Acrópolis, Francisco Arturo Mejía, who is currently imprisoned on asset laundering charges.
Oliva Herrera, along with his wife and daughter, then acquired two condominiums from Alfonso Deras in 2018 for a fee of 20.9 million lempiras ($836,000), according to documents compiled in the Expediente Público investigation.
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Over a decade earlier, in 2006, Alfonso Deras had transferred ownership of a separate house to a Honduran official, who later gifted the property to her brother and Oliva Herrera's son-in-law, César Antonio Pinto.
In 2018, Oliva Herrera placed his assets in a trust, again with his wife and daughter, in an alleged attempt to cover up the acquisitions and shield them from potential seizures, according to the report.
Oliva Herrera, a potential candidate for the incumbent PN in the 2021 elections, also reportedly attended a birthday party held in 2014 for the daughter of a prominent drug trafficker, according to a Honduras Attorney General's Office investigation cited by the magazine.
InSight Crime Analysis
These fresh allegations bring yet another Honduran powerbroker into the already crowded band of National Party officials with suspected links to corruption and crime.
And in this case, the accusations raise concerns over how the National Party's relationship with organized crime might continue if Oliva Herrera replaces Juan Orlando Hernández as president in 2022.
Thus far, he has not been dragged into a series of drug trafficking scandals that have rocked the National Party and implicated President Hernández and his family.
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Despite this, Oliva Herrera does not have a clean slate. In early 2018, he was investigated by Honduras’ internationally-backed anti-corruption commission (Misión de Apoyo Contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad en Honduras – MACCIH) for his suspected participation in an embezzlement scheme that channeled public funds through non-governmental organizations.
Oliva managed to stall the case by appealing to the country’s Supreme Court (Corte Suprema de Justicia – CSJ), who ruled in his favor and suspended all investigations against him later that year.
A vocal opponent of MACCIH, Oliva was allegedly part of a team that put forward an unworkable deal for continuing the partnership between the Honduran government and the commission’s international backers, which ultimately led to MACCIH shutting down in early 2020, according to a diplomat with knowledge of the negotiations.
Olivia’s alleged links to drug traffickers, revealed by Expediente Público, now bring him closer to the ranks of his long-time ally, President Juan Orlando Hernández, who has faced repeated accusations over his alleged involvement in the drug trade from US prosecutors. These largely stem from his alleged role as a co-conspirator in his brother's drug trafficking ring -- accusations that he has repeatedly denied.
Other prominent members of the National Party have also been linked to the Cachiros drug clan, including Hernández’s predecessor, Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo, accused of directing government funds to fraudulent business deals with a Cachiros-owned construction firm.