Immigration Chief Arrested for Corruption

May 6, 2005

TEGUCIGALPA (EFE) – FormerHonduran Immigration chief RamónRomero was arrested Sunday for allegedlyillegally issuing visas and passports to foreigners,officials said.The special anti-corruption prosecutor,Doris Aguilar, said Romero was arrestedon a warrant and houses belonging to theformer official and his mother weresearched in Tegucigalpa.Last Friday, Romero was fired forallegedly allowing 14 Colombians linkedto a drug trafficker to enter Honduras withoutvisas (NT, April 29).Reports in the press said the Colombianswere relatives of jailed Hondurandrug kingpin Ramon Matta, and enteredthe Central American country by privateplane last year.Matta has been serving a life sentencein a U.S. prison since 1988.Romero was arrested at his mother’shouse in Villa Olímpica, in eastern Tegucigalpa.Aguilar said Romero was charged with three counts of abuse of authority, includingone count for allowing the Colombiansto enter the country illegally in May 2004.Two men who appeared to be U.S. law enforcementagents were present duringRomero’s arrest, but Aguilar refused to confirmor deny the presence of U.S. officials.Romero won a February primary to runon the National Party ticket for Tegucigalpa’scity council.Last Friday, the U.S. government canceledthe visas of Romero and several ofhis former subordinates.At a press conference, the deputy chiefof mission of the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa,Roger Pierce, said WashingtonD.C. had also revoked the visas of the formerdirector of foreigners’ affairs, JulioHernández, and of the Immigration chief atToncontin airport, David Williams.Immigration officials Nelly Valladaresand Berenice Castillo, as well as a sixthperson who was not identified, lost theirvisas as well, because “they did not meetthe requirements for entry into the UnitedStates,” Pierce said.

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