September 22, 2007

Part 2: Swamp of corruption in Hondutel

Continuation of Swamp of corruption in Hondutel

Note: all links to articles or websites are in Spanish unless otherwise indicated.

What do the actors in the Hondutel grey traffic scandal say?

Leónidas Rosa Bautista, (Eng.) Fiscál General (Attorney General), is the top man in charge of the investigation. He has been accused of detaining investigations of celebrated corruption cases. Within the Fiscalía's office, former attorneys in charge of Organized Crime and Anticorruption have been transferred to the training or consumer divisions or have even left the country after being, what some say, a little too successful in their investigations.

On September 11, the Ministerio Público announced that all investigations would proceed in secret and that they won't divulge any information about the case. The Fiscál Contra Corrupción, Henry Salgado, announced that they would solicit information from Arcadia and, "if necessary," take a declaration from Rosenthal. (Secret investigations − the best friend of corruption. Out of sight, out of mind.)

On September 13, Chimirri announced legal action for "crimes against the economy of Honduras" against Robert Carmona Borjas, VP of Fundación Arcadia. He also announced undertaking of legal actions against El Universal, the Mexican newspaper which published the report in its original version. (Is he going to add CNN en Español that list?)

During a TV interview, Chimirri disclosed that Carmona Borjas signed a contract with Hondutel last June 2006 as representative of LD TeleCom to provide long distance minutes from the U.S. to Honduras. He claims that Borjas is a blackmailer who owes Hondutel U.S.$25,352 and that vengeance is the motivation for the report because he doesn't want to pay.

Yani Rosenthal denies any involvement with grey traffic and says that the allegations against his family's business CableColor are only an attempt to damage him politically in his campaign for president of Honduras. He says that CableColor was investigated last year (by Chimirri's Anti-Fraud group) and found to not be at fault for the grey traffic originating from the family business and he invites the Fiscalía to investigate CableColor.

His family newspaper, El Tiempo, paints a completely different picture than the other Honduran newspapers, with headlines such as "Hondutel reveals what is behind the black campaign", "Arcadia, besides lying, also operated illegally in the country", "Carmona committed espionage", and"CNN also unmasks Carmona."

Marlon Duarte, legal advisor to Hondutel, said that Arcardia and Carmona Borjas will be investigated because "we can't permit a foreigner to come inside an important agency like telecommunications in a independent country."

The former Fiscál of Organized Crime, Marcio Zúniga Sierra, who was in charge of raids on businesses alleged to be involved with grey traffic, is now an attorney working for Chimirri in Hondutel.

Rasel Tomé, president of the Comisión Nacional de Telecomunicaciones (Conatel), responsible for regulation of telecommunications, says that they have received no denuncias regarding grey traffic against Hondutel or the two suboperators (cell phone companies) which are the only entities authorized for international call traffic, or CableColor, therefore, he thinks the Arcadia report is "damaging the international image of the country."

The President of the Corte Suprema de Justicia (CSJ), Vilma Cecilia Morales, considered that if the Honduran government doesn't put a strong hand to this matter, the country could confront repercussions. The credibility of and possibility of corruption of the CSJ has been put in question several times.

Roberto Micheletti, president of the National Congress, says "We know there is a lot of grey traffic in the country. We have denounced it before."

Honduran President Mel Zelaya said that there is no proof against Chimirri. He had no comment about the investigations and said that if Arcadia has proof, bring it to Honduras. (That is a little disengenuous, since the original report was submitted to Hondutel management and the US Embassy in July 2006, not to mention the fact that if Robert Carmona Borjas comes back to Honduras, he will need to wear full body armor and be surrounded by a team of bodyguards.)

On September 19, CNN en Español aired an interview with Carmona Borjas under the banner "Corruption in Honduras." Many politicians and some citizens were outraged, but some seemed more upset about the international exposure and the deterioration of the country's image than they are about the corruption. President of the National Congress, Micheletti said, "the acts of corruption denounced in Hondutel are causing the state to lose millions." Estimates are that Honduras currently loses US$2 million per day to corruption or almost three-quarters of a BILLION US dollars per year. Some estimates are as high as US$1 BILLION and that the total may be US$48 BILLION.

US Ambassador to Honduras, Charles Ford, said the denuncias "no son nada nuevo" (aren't anything new). He's been talking about corruption for a long time. Ford says that his interest is that the U.S. has spent much money helping the institutions investigate the accusations and it is better that the Fiscál and the courts decide.

Ford says that the U.S. government had nothing to do with Arcadia, El Universal, or CNN's report and that when they have something to say, they say it directly to the government. The U.S. FBI's
International Financial Crimes division has apparently been conducting investigations. President Zelaya admitted that he was informed 5 months ago that the U.S. was investigating Chimirri.

The coordinator of the Consejo Nacional Anticorrupción, Juan Ferrera, issued a petition for a rapid and clear investigation and the removal of Chimirri from his position.

In the September 19 issue, La Prensa speculated that Chimirri would leave his position in the next hours and made the cryptic comment that he was expected to "enter one of the embassies."

It's incredible that the Hondutel financial information can only be obtained through a third party and published in Mexico, after which it was reported in the Honduran newspapers as a big surprise. Where is the transparency? Why aren't the citizens given financial reports of government agencies?

Under Honduras' new "transparency" law (Eng), virtually any information can be withheld from the public or even destroyed before it can be made public. But the international aid organizations demanded transparency, so the corruptos passed a law to placate them. Ironically, "under the new law, all information about humanitarian aid is secret. The amounts of aid received and the uses to which they are put cannot be divulged."

Next: What does the author of the investigation say and disappearing websites
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