José Miguel "Chepe" Handal

A court in Honduras has sentenced drug trafficker José Miguel "Chepe" Handal to 10 years in prison, bringing to a halt a criminal career that connected organized crime with Honduran business and political elites.

Handal was found guilty of drug trafficking in November last year, after prosecutors established his responsibility for a drug flight that attempted to move over one and a half tons of cocaine through the Honduran island of Utila in 2009, reported La Prensa.

The verdict means an end to US authorities' attempts to extradite Handal, at least for the moment, as their extradition request will not be executed while he is serving time in Honduras.

Handal was once a respected businessman in Honduras, and he once ran for a seat in Congress. However, according to official investigations in both Honduras and the United States, he was also an important link in the cocaine supply chain that flows from Colombia to the United States, and had connections to the Mexican cartels that control this chain, among them the Sinaloa Cartel and the Zetas.

InSight Crime Analysis

Handal was one of the first of Honduras' elite-backed drug traffickers to be pushed into the spotlight by the United States, which added him to the US Treasury's "Kingpin List" in 2013.

This marked the start of US attempts to publically identify several drug networks that had grown thanks to the protection of political and economic elites, and to pile pressure on the Honduran state to take action against them.

SEE ALSO: Honduras Elites and Organized Crime

Since then, authorities have successfully pursued the leadership of even more powerful networks like the Cachiros and the Valles. The governments efforts in these cases have made serious inroads in tackling Honduran drug trafficking networks and the elites that protect them.

However, unlike the Cachiros and the Valle Valle clan, Handal has managed to avoid extradition to the United States, and instead will serve his time in Honduras. Given the levels of corruption in both Honduran courts and prisons, this could create room for Handal to leverage whatever influence he still has to his advantage. Thus, it would not be a surprise if his underworld story does not end here.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
Prev Next

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

  Life of a Sicario Anatomy of a Hit   The BACRIM's control over territories such as the north Colombian region of Bajo Cauca comes at the point of a gun, and death is a constant price of their power.

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Honduras does not produce weapons,[1] but weapons are trafficked into the country in numerous ways. These vary depending on weapon availability in neighboring countries, demand in Honduras, government controls and other factors. They do not appear to obey a single strategic logic, other than that of evading...

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs. 

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

The weapons trade within Honduras is difficult to monitor. This is largely because the military, the country's sole importer, and the Armory, the sole salesmen of weapons, do not release information to the public. The lack of transparency extends to private security companies, which do not have...

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

As set out in this report, the legal structure around Honduras' arms trade is deeply flawed. The legislation is inconsistent and unclear as to the roles of different institutions, while the regulatory system is insufficiently funded, anachronistic and administered by officials who are overworked or susceptible to...

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

  The Bajo Cauca Franchise BACRIM-Land Armed Power Dynamics The BACRIM in places like the region of Bajo Cauca are a typical manifestation of Colombia's underworld today: a semi-autonomous local cell that is part of a powerful national network.

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Estimates vary widely as to how many legal and illegal weapons are circulating in Honduras. There are many reasons for this. The government does not have a centralized database that tracks arms seizures, purchases, sales and other matters concerning arms possession, availability and merchandising. The laws surrounding...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

  Drugs Extortion Criminal Cash Flows Millions of dollars in dirty money circulate constantly around Bajo Cauca, flowing upwards and outwards from a broad range of criminal activities. The BACRIM are the chief regulators and beneficiaries of this shadow economy.