A Honduran judge has called a hearing regarding the country’s ‘Pandora’s Box’ case involving 38 elected officials and government members who allegedly funneled $US 12 million in public funds to the campaign coffers of the National Party between 2011 and 2013.
TeleSUR correspondent in Honduras, Gilda Silvestrucci, says that the judge has called the 20 so far detained in the case to the Wednesday hearing in order to decide whether or not they should remain in preventative detention. Eighteen of the accused remain at large, including the brother in law of President Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH) who is suspected of having fled the country, according to Silvestrucci.
Among those to make a court appearance are three National Congress representatives, all members of JOH’s National Party. An undersecretary from the president’s administration along with a dozen other government officials have also been imprisoned since over the weekend and are expected to appear before the judge.
In June the Special Prosecutor Against Corruption and Impunity of the Public Prosecutor's Office (Ufecic) and the anti-corruption mission of the Organization of American States (OAS) revealed that public funds earmarked for agricultural and horticultural projects were laundered through the non-government organizations, ‘We Are All Honduras’ and channeled to several National Party 2013 electoral campaigns, including JOH’s first presidential run. The money was also used to pay off members of the opposition Liberal Party.
President Hernandez's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment by Reuters. A defense lawyer for one of the accused said that the charges were "inconsistent."
Hernandez was re-elected last November in a highly contested vote considered so "irregular" by OAS and UN officials that they called for fresh elections, which never came to fruition. Honduran organizations have accused the government of killing at least 32 protesters, injuring over 1,000 and intimidating hundreds who demanded a new vote and JOH's resignation.
This is the second major government corruption network being investigated by the prosecutors and the OAS anticorruption council. The other, the "Delegates Network," involves over 60 Honduran state officials – some of them still in office – who, between 2011 and 2015, channeled approximately US$55million in state funds into the pockets of the accused.