Elites-Backed Honduras Drug Trafficker Sentenced to 10 Years

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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.

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