OAS anti-graft body to probe Honduran scandal dogging president

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez speaks during a welcome ceremony at the National Palace in Mexico City, February 26, 2016. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - An anti-graft mission of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Honduras said on Tuesday it will investigate a multi-million dollar corruption scandal that has dogged the president of the Central American country, Juan Orlando Hernandez.

Critics of Hernandez staged mass protests last year urging him to resign over his links to the $200-million fraud at the Honduran Institute of Social Security, where companies, some formed by institute officials, overcharged for services.

The OAS Mission to Support the Fight Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH) was announced by Hernandez last September after weeks of demonstrations, though it fell short of what many of his opponents had hoped for.

Still, MACCIH spokesman Juan Jimenez, a former Peruvian minister of justice, said the fraud would be on its list.

“We’re in no doubt that we have to take on that case to support the attorney general’s office, to support the justice system,” Jimenez told a news conference.

Hernandez has admitted his 2013 presidential campaign took about $150,000 from companies involved in the scandal, but said he and his party were unaware of where the money came from.

The Honduran president resisted calls to support an anti-corruption body such as the separate U.N.-backed team that helped bring down his Guatemalan counterpart Otto Perez last September.

Reporting by Gustavo Palencia; Editing by Clarence Fernandez