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El Chapo Said to Have Given $1 Million to Honduran President’s Brother

United States prosecutors on Wednesday told a courtroom in New York that the Mexican drug kingpin known as El Chapo delivered $1 million to the brother of the Honduran president — money that had been intended to reach the president himself.

The allegation came in the prosecution’s opening statement in the drug trafficking trial of Juan Antonio (Tony) Hernández, the younger brother of the Honduran president, Juan Orlando Hernández.

The president — who has not been charged in the case — has been an ally of President Trump’s on security and immigration, but has also faced growing suspicion. United States prosecutors alleged in a recent court filing that he was part of the conspiracy in which his brother was charged.

President Hernández, 50, has denied any involvement in drug crimes and said the allegations against him were made by traffickers angered by his tough-on-crime policies and extraditions.

“All Hondurans know that we have led an unprecedented battle to free the country from the control of drug traffickers,” President Hernández said on Aug. 3 in response to news reports about the prosecutors’ suspicions.

On Wednesday evening, after reports of the prosecutor’s statement surfaced publicly, President Hernández, on Twitter, strongly denied the allegations linking him to the drug lord Joaquín Guzmán Loera, known worldwide as El Chapo, calling them “100% false, absurd and ridiculous,” and suggesting they were less believable than “Alice in Wonderland.”

He also noted that the prosecutor never said that he had received the money claimed to have been given first to his brother.

The allegation against President Hernández by the federal prosecutor in Manhattan comes in stark contrast to the praise lavished on him by other American officials in recent months. On Sept. 25, for example, Kevin K. McAleenan, the acting secretary of Homeland Security, said in a tweet that the Honduran president was “a strong partner” who was working to “combat irregular migration and transnational criminal organizations.”

The case, being brought by American prosecutors, has shaken Honduras deeply.

Thousands of Hondurans leave their country every month — many headed to the United States — after despairing of being unable to build better lives for themselves in their own country. The yearslong federal investigation, involving the country’s political elite, reinforces the belief that the government is corrupt and not working in their interests.

After the allegations against President Hernández became public in a court filing in New York in August, Hondurans renewed protests and calls for his resignation. Many carried signs with his initials — J.O.H — and the prosecutor’s shorthand for the president — CC-4, meaning a co-conspirator.

In the courtroom in Federal District Court in Manhattan on Wednesday, the prosecution and the defense each featured President Hernández as central to the trial — with the prosecution saying that the president had helped insulate his brother while benefiting from drug money himself.

“That protection and that control made him very confident that he would never be held accountable for his crimes, that he was untouchable — and for a very long time he was,” Jason A. Richman, an assistant United States attorney, said.

Tony Hernández has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, which include conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States. If convicted, he could face life imprisonment.

His lawyer, T. Omar Malone, told the jury, “You’ll not see a picture of this gentleman at any place at any time with any drugs.” Mr. Malone argued that it was President Hernández’s tough-on-crime policies that had landed his brother in the courtroom.

Recalling a conversation between the president and the accused, who at the time was considering entering politics himself, Mr. Malone said that the president had advised Tony Hernández not to do so, that the president’s enemies would turn on him.

“‘You will be the target of their ire,’” Mr. Malone recounted of the president’s conversation. Then, looking at the jury, he added, “And that’s what happened.”

Jeff Lichtman, Mr. Guzman’s attorney, also denied his client’s role in the accusations.

In the government’s opening statement, the prosecutor, Mr. Richman, did not elaborate on allegations linking El Chapo to Tony Hernández or his brother. Mr. Richman told the jury that Tony Hernández’s cocaine network had thrived because of his political power in Honduras.

“Mayors, congressmen, military generals, police chiefs — they all protected the defendant,” Mr. Richman said. “They all protected his organization.

“They were all bought and paid for with the dirtiest of drug money,” Mr. Richman said. “And most importantly, the defendant was protected by and had access to his brother, the current sitting president of Honduras, a man who himself has received millions of dollars in drug money bribes.”

Mr. Hernández’s trial, which is to continue on Thursday, is expected to last 10 to 12 courtroom days, a prosecutor told Judge P. Kevin Castel.

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