Ex-police chief arrested after US extradition request

Juan Carlos Bonilla was the Honduran national police chief during the administration of former President Porfirio LoboJuan Carlos Bonilla

Honduran security forces on Wednesday arrested a former police chief who is wanted by the United States on drug trafficking charges.

Juan Carlos Bonilla, better known as “El Tigre” or “The Tiger,” was head of the country’s national police between 2012 and 2013.

“I can confirm that former police chief Juan Carlos Bonilla was arrested by police officers and tomorrow he will be presented before a judge who ordered his capture,” Supreme Court spokesman Melvin Duarte told news agency Reuters.

Bonilla was arrested while driving through a toll booth on the outskirts of the capital, Tegucigalpa, officials said. He had been on the run for several months, the former police chief’s arrest came in response to a US extradition request filed in May last year.

Prosecutors announced charges against Bonilla in April 2020, saying he used his law enforcement clout to protect US-bound shipments of cocaine.

“Bonilla Valladares oversaw the transshipment of multiton loads of cocaine bound for the US, used machine guns and other weaponry to accomplish that, and participated in extreme violence, including the murder of a rival trafficker,” Manhattan US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said at the time.

He is accused of allowing drug shipments to pass through police checkpoints without inspection.

Prosecutors also say he helped drug organizations evade police by tipping them off about their aerial and maritime interdiction operations. Bonilla has denied the accusations made by US prosecutors, besides drugs and weapons charges, he also faces allegations of human rights abuses.

According to an internal report, he was accused of leading death squads and taking part in three killings or forced disappearances between 1998 and 2002. He was prosecuted for one murder but acquitted in 2004.

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