You might not be familiar with the the Rosenthals, a powerful Honduran family who have been indicted in the U.S. facing money laundering charges.
But Jaime Rolando Rosenthal, former Honduran vice president, Yani Rosenthal, former cabinet minister and Yankel Rosenthal, owner of Honduran soccer club Marathon, are accused of laundering funds for some of Central America’s biggest drug cartels, using accounts in the United States.
The family could face up to 20 years in prison for the activities, carried out between 2004 and 2015, in breach of section 18 of U.S. law.
“We have not done anything illegal,” Jaime Rosenthal insisted in a recent interview with Insight Crime, but a serious of dodgy loans from family business Continental Bank linked the Rosenthals’ to deals inked with well-known criminal families.
The plot thickens
Both Yani and Jaime Rosenthal released a statement denying the accusations made against them. “We have never been involved in illegal acts, much less in drug trafficking or money laundering activities.”
While they are both still free in Honduras, Yankel Rosenthal was arrested in Miami.
This could be the first occasion that the U.S. kingpin act is used against a foreign bank.
The family is one of the richest in Honduras, with a vast business empire that includes real estate interests, telecommunications and financial services.
“This is a shot across all the elite’s bows in Honduras,” said Steven Dudley, co-director of InSight Crime, told the New York Times.
Widespread claims of corruption have seen thousands of protestors take to the streets across the Central American country.
“Corruption on such a criminal level it’s basically sociopathic behavior.” Protestor Eldan Cruz told the Miami Herald.
“People identify it as a crime against humanity,”
Since 2010 around $350 million has “disappeared’ from the country’s social health system in alleged schemes which involve overpayment of medical supplies prior to laundering the money back.
U.S. embassador to Honduras James Nealson has responded to the arrest on his Twitter account:
— US Ambassador HN (@USAmbHonduras) October 7, 2015
“Today’s actions by the U.S. Treasury against the Continental Bank and its owners show that impunity will not stand.” he tweeted.
Whereas the U.S. Treasury Department has classed Rosenthal and his seven employees as “specially assigned drug traffickers” able to launder funds while operating as a business in the U.S., the BBC reports.
But as a top Honduran prosecutor has revoked claims that there is enough evidence to prosecute the Rosenthals’ this looks like the start of another corruption case set to shape Honduras- U.S. relations.