NEW YORK (AP) — A man who led a violent Honduran drug trafficking organization has told a federal court in New York that he bribed a president of the Central American country.
Devis Rivera Maradiaga, a onetime leader of a gang known as the Cachiros, made the allegation while testifying Monday in a pre-sentencing hearing for the son of now retired Honduran President Porfirio Lobo Sosa. The son has pleaded guilty to cocaine smuggling.
Rivera said he paid Lobo and the son to protect the gang's operations and to secure government contracts to help launder money.
The former president denied the claims. "I never received money from those criminals," Lobo told reporters from his home on the outskirts of the Honduran capital Tuesday.
Rivera described a series of payments in 2009-2013 that he said were aimed at buying protection from the president to move South American drugs destined for the U.S. into Honduras and to keep him and his brother from being extradited to the U.S. to face charges. He testified that he met with Lobo, at one point passing a suitcase with about $300,000 to the president through his security detail.
Rivera also said that he and other traffickers arranged to have a senior Honduran security official killed and that he worked with the president's son, Fabio, to get government contracts so he could launder proceeds from the drug trade.
Rivera surrendered to U.S. authorities and pleaded guilty to charges that include murder, drug and weapons offenses and agreed to cooperate with the Drug Enforcement Administration. He told the court he was involved in 78 murders.
His testimony came in a pre-sentencing hearing for Fabio Lobo, who pleaded guilty in May to conspiring to import cocaine into the U.S. The hearing was expected to resume next week.