TEGUCIGALPA – The U.S. Justice Department has filed a lawsuit to confiscate nine properties in the United States worth about $1.5 million that have been allegedly linked to the corruption scandal involving the Honduran Institute of Social Security (IHSS).
A statement released Tuesday by the U.S. embassy in Tegucigalpa said that the properties, worth $1,528,000, were bought with money traced to a $2 million bribe paid by a Honduran company to former IHSS director Mario Zelaya.
Zelaya and former officials of his administration are imprisoned in Honduras for embezzling millions from IHSS funds. A former model from the country and Zelaya’s Chilean lover are also implicated.
“Mario Zelaya was the director of Honduras’s social security agency, but instead of building a social safety net for his country’s citizens, he allegedly used his position of public trust to steal public money for himself,” said Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell, of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
“Criminals should make no mistake: the United States is not a safe haven for the proceeds of your crimes. If you hide or invest your stolen money here, we will use all the legal tools we have to find it and seize it,” she added.
The properties concerned are located in the U.S. state of Louisiana.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana is committed to working with our law enforcement partners, both domestically and internationally, to ensure that this district is not used to launder corruptly obtained funds, no matter the source of the corruption,” said federal attorney Kenneth Polite, Jr., of the Eastern District of Louisiana.
Between 2010 and 2014, Zelaya served as the director of IHSS, which provides social security services, including retirement pensions and other work-related compensation.