Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández has been extradited to the United States to face drug trafficking charges.
Hernández, 53, stepped down in January and was arrested at his home in Tegucigalpa a month later.
The former leader was flown to New York on Thursday to face charges over an alleged scheme to flood the US with cocaine.
“We allege that Hernández corrupted legitimate public institutions in the country — including parts of the national police, military and national Congress,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement following the extradition. “And we allege that Hernández worked closely with other public officials to protect cocaine shipments bound for the United States. Because of these alleged crimes, communities in the United States suffered, and the people of Honduras suffered.”
According to a press release from the Department of Justice, Hernández is scheduled to make his first appearance in a US courtroom on Friday, before Magistrate Judge Stewart D. Aaron.
Hernández was president of the country for eight years.
The DOJ alleges that Hernández participated in a “violent drug-trafficking conspiracy” from about 2004 through 2022. The department claims that he facilitated the importation of hundreds of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into the United States and received millions of dollars to use his public office, law enforcement, and the military to support trafficking organizations in “Honduras, Mexico, and elsewhere.”
“Juan Orlando Hernández, the recent former President of Honduras, allegedly partnered with some of the world’s most prolific narcotics traffickers to build a corrupt and brutally violent empire based on the illegal trafficking of tons of cocaine to the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams for the Southern District of New York. “Hernández is alleged to have used his vast political powers to protect and assist drug traffickers and cartel leaders by alerting them to possible interdictions, and sanctioning heavily armed violence to support their drug trade. I commend the career prosecutors of the Southern District of New York for their tireless efforts to disrupt the entire illicit drug trafficking ecosystem, from street-level dealers to a former world leader, and everything in-between.”
Administrator Anne Milgram of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) asserted that, “today’s extradition clearly shows that the DEA will stop at nothing to pursue the most powerful political actors who engage in drug trafficking, violence, and corruption.”
“DEA’s multi-year investigation revealed that Juan Orlando Hernández, the former President of Honduras, was a central figure in one of the largest and most violent cocaine trafficking conspiracies in the world,” Milgram said in a statement. “Hernández used drug trafficking proceeds to finance his political ascent and, once elected President, leveraged the Government of Honduras’ law enforcement, military, and financial resources to further his drug trafficking scheme. This case should send a message – to all political leaders around the world that trade on positions of influence to further transnational organized crime – that the DEA will stop at nothing to investigate these cases and dismantle drug trafficking organizations that threaten the safety and health of the American people.”
According to the indictment, at some point, Hernández was partnered with Joaquín Guzman Loera (Guzman Loera), aka El Chapo. The indictment says that in 2013, while campaigning to become president, Hernández accepted approximately $1 million in drug-trafficking proceeds from Guzman Loera.
Hernández then sent an associate, armed with machine guns, to collect the bribe.
In exchange, Hernández promised protection for the Sinaloa Cartel’s drug-trafficking activities in Honduras.
“Hernández is charged with three counts: (1) conspiring to import cocaine into the United States, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum sentence of life in prison; (2) using and carrying machine guns and destructive devices during, and possessing machine guns and destructive devices in furtherance of, the cocaine importation conspiracy, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years and a maximum sentence of life in prison; and (3) conspiring to use and carry machine guns and destructive devices during, and to possess machine guns and destructive devices in furtherance of, the cocaine importation conspiracy, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison,” the DOJ release says.