Honduras Begins Seizing Assets of Accused Elites

Authorities in Honduras have seized over a dozen assets belonging to the Rosenthal family, again raising questions of whether authorities are moving too quickly following a US indictment charging one of the country’s biggest power brokers with money laundering. 

On October 14, Honduran security forces confiscated 19 businesses in addition to several properties owned by the Rosenthal family, reported Reuters. Honduran officials announced a total of 62 assets that belong to the Rosenthals are expected to be seized, reported La Prensa.

In a press release, Honduras’ Public Ministry said the seizures were in line with both international conventions and domestic law.

The action comes one week after US authorities unsealed an indictment charging Jaime Rosenthal, his son Yani, his nephew Yankel, and a company lawyer with laundering money for drug trafficking organizations. The US Treasury Department also named the three Rosenthals as “Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers.”

The family runs Grupo Continental, one of Honduras’ most powerful economic conglomerates. Just days after news of the indictment, authorities ordered the closure of the Rosenthals’ bank, Banco Continental, the eighth largest in Honduras. 

Jaime and Yani Rosenthal have denied any wrongdoing, although Jaime admitted to InSight Crime in June that their bank did business with drug trafficking group the Cachiros for years. US authorities arrested Yankel on October 6 in Miami. 

InSight Crime Analysis

The swift action by Honduran authorities to first close Banco Continental and then seize numerous Rosenthal properties raises concerns political motivations may be influencing legal proceedings against one of the country’s most powerful families. 

The Honduran government has come under heavy pressure to root out corrupt officials following a massive scandal within the country’s social security institute, and at the end of September authorities announced the creation of an anti-corruption commission backed by the Organization of American States. The actions against the Rosenthals could be an attempt by Honduran officials to show they are taking further steps to combat long-standing impunity among the country’s political and economic elites. (In addition to their economic conglomerate, the Rosenthals are also political heavyweights; Jaime is a former vice president, Yani ran for president in the most recent election, and Yankel was a government minister until June of this year.)

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But Honduran officials may be moving too fast against the Rosenthals. The rapid liquidation of their bank has brought up questions of due process, and how this will impact the thousands of employees who will likely be left jobless. While the property seizures appear to be in line with domestic and international norms, the move is nonetheless somewhat surprising considering there are reportedly no open investigations in Honduras against the Rosenthals for money laundering or drug trafficking.