Celebrity doctor turned politician accused of using $6.2 million in taxpayers' money on prostitute

13 February 2015 / 1 year 8 months ago

A respected politician and surgeon has been accused of using up to SGD$6,264,066 (£3 million) of tax payers money to fund a relationship with a prostitute.

Mario Zelaya, has been arrested after it was claimed he was stealing from social security accounts so he could buy his mistress lavish gifts such as; two luxury apartments, a beach house, two SUV cars, perfumes, jewellery and clothes.

He is also reported to have paid 28-year-old Natalia Ciuffardi between £3,000 and £4,000 a month. Until his arrest, Zelaya was director of the Honduran Institute for Social Security and met Ciuffardi while on a business trip to Chile.

The married father of three promised her that he would help her leave the brothel where she worked in the country's capital city, where she was working as both a stripper and prostitute, charging £300 an hour.

She has said that while he spent an extravagant amount of money to impress the 28-year-old, she didn't realise what he was really doing:

"He was very charming and I had no reason to suspect that the money he was giving me was not his own. How was I supposed to know that he had been stealing it?

"I fell in love with him and when I became pregnant it was logical for me to leave and start a new life with the man who I thought I knew." 

Zelaya had been a highly respected Doctor who worked for years in military hospitals. "The first I knew that anything was wrong was when he called me and asked me to forgive him. He said I’ll understand him one day.

"He asked me to always say good things about him to our son. And that he felt sorry for what happened, but we are never ever going to meet again. He told me he would change my life.

"He promised he would help me leave my job and we would build a home together. I believed him and I fell in love with him."

After prosecutors started investigating the case in 2013, Natalia has since become part of a corruption investigation herself, has gained the nickname 'The Chilean Geisha' in her home country.

The fate of the disgraced politician is yet to be decided but is thought to be severe after using cash that was supposed to fund curing diseases and improving Honduras' sanitation.

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