On October 7, the US Justice Department released a statement saying that one of Honduras’ most powerful businessmen and two of his family members have been indicted for allegedly laundering money for drug traffickers. Seven businesses were also labeled “specially designated narcotics traffickers” under the Kingpin Act.
The Associated Press reported that Jaime Rolando Rosenthal Oliva, his son Yani Benjamin Rosenthal and nephew Yankel Rosenthal “provide money laundering and other services that support the international narcotics trafficking activities of multiple Central American drug traffickers and their criminal organizations.” One US Treasury Department official called it “one of the most significant money laundering networks in Central America.”
While Central America has always played a role in drug trafficking in the Western Hemisphere, it has become more prominent since South American cocaine producers started shifting their routes from the Caribbean to Mexico in the 1990s. Panama and Nicaragua have historically been epicenters of cocaine smuggling, but Guatemala and Honduras have become transit hot spots with the expansion of Mexican cartels into Central America.
Going after cartel money and the individuals and organizations that launder it has been en enormous struggle for global law enforcement agencies. The United Nations estimates that only 1 percent of drug proceeds being laundered worldwide are ever detected. While the report did not specify which organization(s) Rosenthal and his family members are allegedly helping, based on his location and trafficker methodology, the odds are good they have some business associations with Mexican drug cartels.
Jaime Rosenthal heads Grupo Continental, a collection of businesses ranging from a bank to a meatpacker, and is a four-time presidential candidate. Yankel Rosenthal heads the Marathon soccer club, which plays in the city of San Pedro Sula—named the most deadly city in the world due to its sky-high murder rate and brutally violent gang activity. The indictment, which came from the Southern District of New York, also names Andres Acosta Garcia, a lawyer with Grupo Continental. Each man is charged with one count of money laundering, which carries a maximum of 20 years in prison.
Sylvia Longmire is a border security expert and Contributing Editor for Breitbart Texas. You can read more about cross-border issues in her latest book, Border Insecurity: Why Big Money, Fences, and Drones Aren’t Making Us Safer.