Honduran businessman Wilkin Montalván's name came up in November 2018 when US agents questioned Tony Hernández, the president's brother, about drug traffickers. Three years later, somebody clearly wanted to see Montalván dead.
Intubated due to complications from COVID-19, Montalván was sedated when a gunman shot him twice in the head. The gunman and four accomplices, dressed as doctors, entered the private Tegucigalpa hospital on September 2 at about 5 a.m., heading directly for the Intensive Care Unit. The fake doctors were gone by the time hospital staff discovered Montalván had been shot, La Tribuna reported.
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Montalván, hospitalized for 16 days, was set to be transferred to Mexico to receive more specialized care, his brother, Milton Mateo Montalván, told reporters outside the morgue.
Police and Montalván’s brother gave no motive for the shooting or possible suspects.
Milton Mateo Montalván – the alternative representative for Olancho congressman Carlos Zelaya, of the Liberty and Refoundation (Libertad y Refundacion - Libre) party – said he was baffled by his brother’s killing.
“We didn’t have problems with anyone,” he said. “If he had been threatened, we would have put security around him.”
InSight Crime Analysis
Though never charged with a crime, the Honduran businessman was fingered obliquely by one person: convicted drug trafficker and the current president’s brother, Tony Hernández.
Wilkin Montalván’s name came up while Hernández was interviewed by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents after his arrest at a Miami airport in November 2018. According to a transcript of the interview, Hernández said Fredy Najéra, a former congressman who himself pleaded guilty to US drug trafficking charges in 2018, told him to avoid Montalván because “he is close” with “Moncho Matas.”
The nickname "Moncho Matas" is likely a reference to Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros, a notorious Honduran drug trafficker who moved cocaine for the Medellín Cartel and who is serving a life sentence in the United States for drug trafficking.
Hernández said that Nájera warned him that he was being set up “for a trap.” But Hernández claimed his only business with Montalván was a highway project.
“I’ve been told many things about Wilken (sic),” he told the agents, adding later that he wasn’t interested in Montalván’s “secondary businesses.”
Though he apparently has never been charged with any crime, Montalván was linked to Matta Ballesteros' son Juan Ramón Matta Waldurraga, who served two years in prison after negotiating with US prosecutors to plead guilty to a single trafficking charge in 2017.
In July 2003, a drug flight crashed outside of an Olancho property owned by Matta Waldurraga. Police intercepted the plane after it struck a vehicle allegedly belonging to Montalván.
Milton Mateo Montalván – the alternative representative for Carlos Zelaya, the brother of former President Manuel Zelaya (2006 - 2009) – said Wilkin eschewed politics, dedicating his time to his gasoline and construction businesses. But he remained in the inner circle of Honduras’ political elites.
Montalván reportedly brought famed Mexican band Los Tigres del Norte to sing narcocorridos for then President Zelaya in the presidential palace. He was also reportedly investigated for possibly being part of a corruption network connected to Rosa Elena Bonilla, the wife of former President Porfirio Lobo Sosa (2010-2014). She was found guilty in 2019 of embezzlement and fraud, but the verdict was later dismissed.
The shooting death of Montalván was well planned, fitting a pattern of murders seen in Honduras in the wake of Tony Hernández’s 2019 conviction. Several people connected to the case have been killed, including a jailed drug trafficker whose ledgers were used in the trial.
Leonardo Pineda, a security analyst, told Radio América Honduras that Montalván’s killing might be part of a “reconfiguration” of drug trafficking networks in Honduras ahead of November’s presidential elections.
“A change of government is looming,” he said, “and loose ends are being tied up.”
Though the motive for the shooting death remains a mystery, whoever wanted Moltaván dead wasn’t about to wait to see if he succumbed to COVID-19. Milton Mateo Montalván told reporters that his brother had been fighting for his life when he was killed.