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Honduras ex-first lady arrested for embezzlement

Honduras’s former first lady Rosa Elena Bonilla de Lobo, wife of Porfirio Lobo who was president from 2010 to 2014, was arrested on Wednesday on charges of embezzling millions of dollars of public funds, authorities said.

The 51-year-old was apprehended in the couple’s home in the east of the capital Tegucigalpa, said a spokesperson for the country’s supreme court, Melvin Duarte.

She was implicated in an investigation showing the equivalent of $500 000 had allegedly been siphoned off into her personal account six days before her husband stepped down as president on January 27, 2014, Duarte said.

Ana Maria Calderon, head of MACCIH, an anti-graft body in the country set up under the Organisation of American States, told a news conference the former first lady’s office was suspected of embezzling a total $4m between 2011 and 2014.

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Some of the money – $170 000 – was a donation from Taiwan, Calderon said.

She added that at least nine employees working for Bonilla were thought to have been involved in the alleged plunder. The charges were for embezzlement of public funds, money laundering, and criminal association.

According to the National Anti-corruption Council, Bonilla’s official bank account also received $638 000 from a state agency for children.

Duarte said Bonilla would be brought before a criminal court judge handling corruption cases who would decide whether to jail her or not.

MACCIH was created in February 2016 at the request of current President Juan Orlando Hernandez after a wave of protests against the transfer of more than $330m out of the country’s social security coffers.

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Hernandez admitted that some of that money had found its way into his 2013 electoral campaign, but said the operation was done without his knowledge.

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