U.S. charges Honduran soccer club chief with laundering drug money

Wed Oct 7, 2015 7:27pm EDT
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By Zachary Fagenson and Jonathan Stempel

MIAMI/NEW YORK (Reuters) - The president of a top Honduras soccer club and two family members were charged by U.S. authorities on Wednesday with engineering a decade-long scheme to launder drug trafficking and foreign bribery proceeds through U.S. accounts.

The Rosenthal family, one of Honduras' wealthiest and most politically connected families, was accused of using their Grupo Continental conglomerate to run what a senior U.S. Department of the Treasury official called one of Central America's most significant money laundering networks.

Yankel Rosenthal, 46, president of Club Deportivo Marathon and until June a minister of investment in Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez's government, was arrested in Miami on Tuesday, and appeared in federal court there on Wednesday.

Also charged were his uncle Jaime Rosenthal, 79, who unsuccessfully tried to be a presidential candidate for Honduras' center-right Liberal party; Yani Rosenthal, 50, a former cabinet member and Jaime's son; and Andres Acosta Garcia, 40, a Grupo Continental lawyer.

In a statement issued by Grupo Continental, the accused family members rejected the allegations.

"We have never been involved in illegal acts, much less in drug-running or money-laundering activities," it read.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in New York, whose office announced the criminal charges on Wednesday, said the alleged scheme ran from 2004 until last month.

The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control classified the Rosenthals and seven businesses, including Grupo Continental and its Banco Continental unit, as "specially designated narcotics traffickers," allowing the freezing of assets under U.S. control.   Continued...