Honduras arrests ex-social security chief in $200 mln graft bust

TEGUCIGALPA, (Reuters) – A former government official linked to one of the biggest corruption scandals in Honduras in decades was arrested today after months on the run, the country’s security minister said.

Mario Zelaya, head of the Honduran Institute of Social Security (IHSS) from 2010 until January 2014, is accused of fraud, bribery, abuse of public funds and money laundering.

Zelaya left the IHSS, which covers 1.6 million Hondurans, in precarious financial shape after allegedly overpaying companies, some formed by his former IHSS subordinates, about $200 million, according to the National Anti-Corruption Board.

Authorities stressed that several lines of investigation remain open and the scale of the corruption and graft scandal, already considered among the biggest in recent memory, has still not been fully determined.

“We’re proving that impunity is a thing of the past, and that impunity won’t prevail, justice will,” said Security Minister Arturo Corrales after announcing the capture of Zelaya, whose arrest on corruption charges was ordered soon after he left the Social Security agency in February.

Prosecutors discovered more than $7 million worth of assets including mansions, apartments, land and vehicles under Zelaya’s control.

Zelaya was captured in the southern state of El Paraiso, which borders Nicaragua.

Honduran President Juan Hernandez, who was elected last year, has been praised by foreign governments for going after rampant corruption in Honduras

The Central American country, the main driver behind the recent U.S. border child immigration crisis, is one of the poorest in the Americas and violence fueled by drug gangs has saddled it with the world’s highest murder rate.

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