Honduras seizes assets of suspected drug gang, including zoo
TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Honduran police and security forces on Thursday seized bank accounts and assets worth millions of dollars belonging to a gang of suspected drug traffickers singled out by the U.S. government, a Honduran official said.
The U.S. ambassador to Honduras, Lisa Kubiske, said on her Twitter account the seized assets were worth at least $500 million. They included hotels, luxury houses, gas stations, and the biggest zoo in the Central American country.
An official at the Honduran attorney general's office said the assets were worth considerably less than Kubiske's estimate.
The assets belonged to a group known as Los Cachiros, which the U.S. Treasury Department said trafficked narcotics for organizations including the Sinaloa Cartel, one of the most powerful drug-running outfits in Mexico.
Earlier on Thursday, the U.S. Treasury Department issued a statement prohibiting U.S. citizens from doing business with Los Cachiros. Honduran authorities said leaders of the group remain at large.
The confiscation was made under a 2010 law that enables Honduran authorities to seize assets believed to be of illicit origin, said the official at the attorney general's office.
The suspected traffickers must now prove that the assets were not acquired with criminal proceeds, the official added.
Honduras, which had the highest murder rate in the world last year, has become an important staging post for drug gangs seeking to move contraband from South America.
(Reporting by Gustavo Palencia; Editing by Eric Beech)