President of Honduras helped smuggle tons of cocaine into US: prosecutor
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, seen here giving a speech on March 4, 2021, is alleged by a US prosecutor to have helped a cocaine trafficker smuggle tons of the drug in the US(AFP)

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez helped smuggle tons of cocaine into the United States, a US prosecutor said Tuesday at the trial of an accused drug trafficker.

That accused trafficker, Geovanny Fuentes, bribed the president with $25,000 in cash and this made Fuentes "untouchable," prosecutor Jacob Gutwillig said in opening arguments at the New York federal trial.

The president, said the prosecutor, "made the defendant bullet-proof."

Fuentes paid the money to Hernandez in meetings in 2013 and 2014, the prosecutor said.

Hernandez has been in power since January 2014 and won a second term in 2018.

An accountant named Jose Sanchez who was present at those meetings will tell the jury "the shock, the fear he felt when he saw the defendant sitting with the president," said Gutwillig.

Sanchez worked at a rice-growing company through which the defendant laundered money, the prosecutor alleged.

This witness will tell the jury that the president told Fuentes "that they'd transport so much cocaine into the US they'd shove the drugs up the noses of the gringos," said Gutwillig.

Defense attorney Eylan Schulman tried to discredit what the witness allegedly plans to tell the jury.

"Supposedly $25,000 is all it costs to bribe a president," said Schulman.

Sanchez, said Schulman, "has a lot to gain and little to lose. He has an asylum application pending with the immigration service."

US prosecutors consider Hernandez to be a co-conspirator of Fuentes in smuggling tons of cocaine to the US but they have not charged him.

The president's brother, Tony Hernandez was found guilty of large-scale drug trafficking at a New York trial in 2019.

The sentencing in that case has been delayed several times and is now scheduled for March 23. The brother could be sentenced to life in prison.

Prosecutors say he was the middle man between accused trafficker Fuentes and the president.