Honduras probe: Funds diverted to president's 2013 campaign

FILE - In this Jan. 27, 2018 file photo, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez acknowledges supporters accompanied by his wife Ana Garcia, during his presidential inaugural ceremony at the National Stadium in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Prosecutors in Honduras accusing politicians and officials on June 13, 2018 of having diverted millions in government funds to political parties, including Hernandez's 2013 campaign. (AP Photo/Fernando Antonio, File)

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Prosecutors accused politicians and officials Wednesday of having diverted $11.7 million in Honduran government funds to political parties, including the 2013 campaign of President Juan Orlando Hernandez.

Federal prosecutors and a U.N.-backed mission on corruption asked the country's Supreme Court to issue arrest warrants for 38 politicians, officials and private citizens.

The scheme came to light when Italian investor and former honorary consul Pietro Di Battista complained to authorities that his nonprofit organization, the Dibattista foundation, had been used for shadowy purposes.

The accused allegedly took money from the agriculture department and channeled it through foundations or non-governmental groups to Hernandez's National Party, the opposition Liberal Party and a smaller third party, the Broad Front.

Part of the funds were allegedly used to finance so-called "Cachureca" cards — discount cards that were handed out as part of Hernandez's campaign. Cachureca is a slang term for National Party members.

"The investigation has found sufficient evidence that money destined for agricultural and agro-industrial projects were used to finance the campaigns of the National Party and the Liberal Party in 2013," said Ana Maria Calderon, the head of the U.N. mission.

Despite term limits, Hernandez ran for re-election last year and was declared the winner in a vote that the opposition claims was marred by fraud.

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