Honduras’ former first lady arrested in graft case

Officers escort Honduras' former first lady, Rosa Elena Bonilla, from a police station in Tegucigalpa, the capital, on Feb. 28, 2018.
Officers escort Honduras’ former first lady, Rosa Elena Bonilla, from a police station in Tegucigalpa, the capital, on Feb. 28, 2018.
(Fernando Antonio / Associated Press)

Military police searched the home of former Honduran President Porfirio Lobo on Wednesday and arrested his wife as part of a corruption inquiry by an international team of investigators.

Police arrived at the Lobo home outside the capital in six vehicles and searched the residence before leaving with former First Lady Rosa Elena Bonilla and her brother-in-law Mauricio Mora. Authorities did not say whether Lobo was present.

The arrest was announced by an anti-corruption mission of the Organization of American States, a team the government agreed to accept after large street protests against graft in 2016.


Investigators for the nongovernmental National Anti-corruption Council have told prosecutors that Bonilla deposited $600,000 in government funds into her personal bank account five days before Lobo ended his four-year term in January 2014. They also say she hasn’t accounted for at least $6 million in government funds for her office during Lobo’s administration.

“Today is a great step against impunity,” council director Gabriela Castellanos said on her Twitter account.

Julio Ramirez, Bonilla’s attorney, told journalists that his client “is innocent and I will prove it in the courts.”

Past corruption cases involving public figures have generally ended without convictions, and the chief of the OAS mission, Juan Jimenez Mayor, resigned in mid-February, complaining of a lack of support from the Honduran government and the OAS.

In December, the mission announced corruption complaints against five Honduran legislators who were accused of shifting public money through a charity and into their own accounts. A month later, Congress passed a measure protecting them from prosecution by freezing any civil or criminal action over public spending until auditors have studied such cases for three years.

Jimenez then called that step a “pact of immunity” and said the mission’s investigators had found strong indications that at least 30 current and former legislators had committed crimes.


Even so, the OAS mission’s investigations led last week to the arrest of three high-ranking military officers accused of illegal association, false testimony and conspiracy involving a case in which civilians had been detained and tortured. Eight lower-ranking soldiers were previously convicted in the case. They had said they were only following orders.