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Honduras probes cartel links to public contracts

© AFP/File / by Noe LEIVA | Leonel Rivera Maradiaga implicated Honduras' current president Juan Orlando Hernandez (pictured) in bribes and dealings with his cartel

TEGUCIGALPA (AFP) - 

Honduras on Monday launched a probe into allegations a drug cartel took on public contracts to launder money, made by one of the gang's ex-leaders in testimony to a New York court.

The country's public ministry said it has tasked four anti-corruption prosecution teams to examine documents relating to government tenders awarded between 2010 and 2014, to see what ties there were to the Cachiros cartel.

The investigation was prompted by Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga, one of the Cachiros bosses along with his brother, who is in detention in the United States pending sentencing for drug trafficking.

In testimony early this month, he said Honduras's former president Porfirio Lobo had colluded with the cartel on the public contracts.

He also gave evidence against Lobo's son, Fabio Lobo, who was arrested in Haiti in 2015 and last year was convicted in New York of conspiring with the Cachiros to send cocaine to the United States.

Rivera, who confessed to 78 murders, also implicated Honduras' current security minister, several lawmakers -- including the brother of current President Juan Orlando Hernandez -- and military officers in bribes and dealings with his cartel.

Hernandez has stressed his public fight against organized crime, drug smuggling and corruption, and implied he would not defend his brother if the accusations were verified.

The president said he was leaving Monday for the United States for talks with the administration of his American counterpart, Donald Trump.

by Noe LEIVA

© 2017 AFP