The Honduran public prosecutor's office reported in a June 23th communique that "three houses, two lots of land and 10 vehicles" were confiscated during the Inter-Institutional "Venado" [Deer] Security Operation in the Aguan Valley, Colon in northern Honduras. The assets belonged to José Angel Bonilla Banegas, a former contractor with Dinant Corporation, a Honduran snack food and agricultural company. The Honduran media is reporting that Bonilla Banegas is a Dinant employee.
According to Honduran officials, Bonilla Banegas "is the owner of the Bonilla Transport Company and according to the investigations, as a result of their illicit activities had acquired 10 vehicles (trucks, trailer cabs and pick up) used to facilitate the passage of narcotics from Colon to the Guatemalan border and money from the Guatemalan border to Colon." The Honduran authorities determined that Bonilla Transport "formed part of the structures on a smaller scale with which large criminal groups like "Los Cachiros" in Colon and the "Valle Valle" in Copan, counted on." In 2013 and 2014, the US Treasury requested the extradition of members of Los Cachiros and the Valle Valle cartels operating in northern Honduras.
On the day of the arrests, Dinant Corporation released a public statement stating that Bonilla Banegas "is not, and has never been, an employee of the company nor any affiliated companies ... While it is true, Bonilla Transport has provided outsourced freight services to Dinant between 2012 and 2013."
The Honduran media reports that authorities traced Bonilla Banegas' involvement in trafficking drugs via the capture of Jose Cristobal Pineda Gonzalez, who was arrested by authorities in La Ceibita, Santa Barbara in March 2015. Pineda Gonzalez was driving a large truck owned by Bonilla Transport with false compartments containing 1,438 kilos of drugs. Some press reports report that cocaine was seized while others report it was marijuana. The drugs were being taken to Guatemala.
The operation that led to the seizures was carried out by the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Organized Crime (FESCCO), the Technical Agency of Criminal Investigation (ATIC) and the "Xatruch" Military Operation. The former two Honduran agencies have themselves been accused of major irregularities including launching biased investigations and human rights abuses against political opponents of the Juan Orlando Hernandez government. Commanders of the Xatruch Military operation have been trained by the U.S. and ATIC agents are vetted and trained by the US and Canada as well.
Dinant Corporation is well-known for its involvement in land conflicts related to its African palm plantations that have been connected to various human rights violations including assassinations, disappearances, torture, threats, etc. against campesino leaders and movements in the Lower Aguan region. The International Financial Corporation (IFC), the private-lending arm of the World Bank, is currently carrying out an internal auditing process of their $30 million loan to Dinant as a result of accusations of the company's involvement in the abuses. The IFC has admitted itself that it failed in implementing its own social and environmental policies when the loan to Dinant was approved.
For years, indigenous and campesino movements have publicly denounced and suspected drug trafficking ties with Dinant Corporation and its vast seas of African palm plantations - perfect for hiding drug laboratories, landing narcoplanes, and drug transfers - that are heavily guarded by private security guards reported to team up with Honduran military and police. Even the U.S. Embassy has reported suspicious drug-related activity linked to Dinant.
In a March 19th, 2004 cable published by Wikileaks, US Ambassador to Honduras Larry Palmer outlines an incident in which a drug plane carrying 1,000 kilos of cocaine originating from Colombia, landed on the Farallones property of Dinant Corporation's Executive President, Miguel Facussé (now deceased). The cable reports that "Facusse's property is heavily guarded and the prospect that individuals were able to access the property and, without authorization, use the airstrip is questionable. In addition, Facusse's report obviously contradicts other information received from the law enforcement source ..." Facusse was also reported to be on-site when the drug plane landed on his property. Farallones is surrounding by seas of African palm plantations with 'Private Property' signs nailed to trees and fences and under heavy guard by armed security personnel.
Its difficult to see drug trafficking busts in Honduras as 'successful' operations. Many Hondurans and international observers see drug war efforts as cherry-picking - nailing some drug traffickers and cartels while leaving others fully operative, if not empowered by the elimination of the competition. The War on Drugs and militarization has grave consequences for Honduran communities, particularly as it is used as a pretext to target and criminalize indigenous populations and communities that defend their natural resources and territories.