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
  • 10
Prev Next

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

In the last decade, homicides in Guatemala have obeyed a fairly steady pattern. Guatemala City and some of its surrounding municipalities have the greatest sheer number of homicides. Other states, particularly along the eastern border have the highest homicide rates. Among these are the departments of Escuintla...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

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. The BACRIM's roots lie in the demobilized paramilitary umbrella group the United Self-Defense...

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. In rural sectors, uniformed BACRIM armed with assault rifles still patrol in...

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Olfato. It is a term used quite often in law enforcement and judicial circles in Central America (and other parts of the world as well). It refers to the sixth sense they have as they see a crime scene, investigate a murder or plow through the paperwork...

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...

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...