US brings drug charges against powerful Honduran family

The Rosenthals own a large business conglomerate and have important political ties

Yani Rosenthal (center) in Honduras.
Yani Rosenthal (center) in Honduras.Fernando Antonio (AP)

US prosecutors on Wednesday indicted three members of an influential family from Honduras on charges of laundering the proceeds of narcotics through bank accounts in the United States.

The indictment, which was unsealed in the federal court for the Southern District of New York, also accused Rosenthal family members of using their US bank accounts to commit foreign bribery offenses.

The indictment charged Jaime Rolando Rosenthal Oliva; his son Yani Benjamin Rosenthal Hidalgo; and his nephew Yankel Antonio Rosenthal Coello.

We will demonstrate at the upcoming trial that we are innocent of all charges”

Rosenthal family

The charges have shaken the political scene in Honduras, where the Rosenthal family has close ties to the opposition Liberal Party (PL).

They are the owners of the daily Tiempo, the Canal 11 cable television network, the Banco Continental bank, sugar plantations and manufacturing companies. Most of their businesses are concentrated in the northern city of San Pedro Sula – the second largest in the Central American nation.

Yankel Antonio Rosenthal Coello, 46, was arrested by US federal authorities in Miami on Tuesday night, the day before the grand jury indictment was unsealed in New York. He is the owner of Deportivo Marathón, one of the biggest soccer teams in Honduras.

US Treasury chart showing how the Rosenthals allegedly laundered drug proceeds.
US Treasury chart showing how the Rosenthals allegedly laundered drug proceeds.

Arrest warrants have been issued for Rosenthal Oliva, 79, and his 50-year-old son Yani Benjamin. Their associate, Andrés Acosta García, 40, has also been charged in the case. All three are thought to be in Honduras.

“As alleged, Yankel Rosenthal Coello and his co-defendants used the banking system and their businesses to launder proceeds of narcotics trafficked to the US,” said Manhattan’s US Attorney Preet Bharara in a press release that was obtained by EL PAÍS from the US Embassy in Honduras.

In a statement signed by Rosenthal Oliva and Rosenthal Hidalgo and their Grupo Continental holding company, the defendants claim that they are being “falsely” accused of money laundering.

“We will demonstrate at the upcoming trial that we are innocent of all charges,” they said.

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In a separate action, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) put the Rosenthals and their companies on its “drug kingpin” list for “playing a significant role in international narcotics trafficking.”

As a result of OFAC’s action, all assets held by these individuals under the jurisdiction of the United States or in the control of US persons have been frozen, this agency said in a statement.

In Honduras, the country’s financial institution watchdog, the National Banking and Insurance Commission, announced on Wednesday that it would intervene in Banco Continental to ensure that its daily operations run smoothly and added that it would review all accounts.

English version by Martin Delfín.

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