U.S. Treasury Freezes Assets of Honduran Drug Trafficking Family

The U.S. Treasury Department named Honduran Jose Miguel Handal Perez and his family as Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers, freezing any assets they have under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibiting transactions with U.S. residents.

Handal, known as “Chepe Handal,” heads a Honduran-based organization that coordinates and distributes multiton shipments of cocaine from Colombia into Honduras, the U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement. Handal’s wife, father and several of the family’s companies in San Pedro Sula were also designated in accordance with the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, according to the statement.

Handel coordinates receipt of narcotic shipments from Venezuela and distributes them to Mexican drug trafficking organizations such as the Sinaloa cartel and Los Zetas via Guatemala, the Treasury Department said. Around 79 percent of cocaine smuggling flights from South American first land in Honduras, according to a U.S. State Department international narcotics report last year.

“Chepe Handal plays a critical role in the transportation and distribution of drug shipments between South America and the Sinaloa Cartel and Los Zetas,” U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control Director Adam J. Szubin said in the statement. “Today’s action underscores OFAC’s commitment to targeting and disrupting key facilitators of the drug trade wherever they may be.”

The Central American street gang Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, was designated a transnational criminal organization by the U.S. Treasury Department in October to give officials more tools to target the group’s financial networks. MS-13, which operates primarily in El Salvador and northern Central America, was cited by Treasury for its involvement in drug-trafficking, kidnapping and assassinations.

More than 57,000 people have died in Mexico due to drug-related violence since 2006, while Honduras and El Salvador have the highest murder rates in the world, the United Nations said in its 2011 Global Study on Homicide.

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