This article first appeared in Infobae on February 01, 2022.
The former Honduran first lady Rosa Elena Bonilla de Lobo arrived on Tuesday at the Sentencing Court of the Supreme Court for the beginning of the retrial against her for eight crimes of fraud and one of misappropriation.
“We don’t know what happened in my first trial, it was total illegality, in which there was pressure… now we are going to another stage, a new court. And the only thing I ask is that justice is done to me and that they let me defend myself,” Bonilla told the press upon entering the courtroom.
The trial was scheduled for July 20, 2021, but was suspended because part of the team of prosecutors in the case was infected with COVID-19.
The defendant is the wife of former President Porfirio Lobo Sosa (2010-2014), who was banned from entering the United States for allegedly accepting bribes from drug traffickers in exchange for political favors, according to U.S. Chief of Mission Antony Blinken at the time.
The new process also involves Saúl Fernando Escobar, who was Bonilla’s private secretary and is accused of three counts of fraud.
“I want to prove that I didn’t take anything, that they give me that opportunity,” the former first lady emphasized.
“The trial will extend until next February 28 in which documentary, testimonial, and expert evidence will be analyzed,” Judicial Branch spokeswoman Lucía Villars told The Associated Press.
On Sept. 4, 2019, the former president’s wife was sentenced to 58 years in prison for three misappropriation crimes and eight fraud crimes, while Escobar received a 48-year prison sentence for several fraud crimes.
But on March 13, 2020, the criminal chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice unanimously decided to annul the sentence of both and ordered a new trial, alleging a bad procedure in the development of the first process. Both were subsequently released.
Bonilla and Escobar are linked to the case known as “Caja chica de la dama”, which was initially disclosed by the Support Mission Against Corruption and Impunity of the Organization of American States.
According to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the wife of the former president took possession of more than 12 million lempiras (about 480,000 dollars), which she took from an account in the name of the Office of the First Lady and the Presidential House and deposited in her account four days before the end of her husband’s government.
Prosecutors also say she and Escobar appropriated 16 million lempiras (about $650,000) that they took out through more than 70 checks issued to nine front companies between 2011 and 2015.
The investigation, which lasted four months, concluded with the capture of the former first lady in February 2018, from which time she was imprisoned in the Penitenciaría Nacional Femenina de Adaptación Social until she was released from prison in 2020.