U.S. imposes sanctions on alleged Honduran drug gang

WASHINGTON Wed Aug 20, 2014 11:06am EDT

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WASHINGTON Aug 20 (Reuters) - The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on a Honduran group it alleges is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine each month into the United States.

The U.S. Treasury Department said the group, called Los Valles, is one of the most prolific drug trafficking organizations in Central America. The Treasury also targeted four businesses it said the gang used to launder drug proceeds, including three coffee production companies and a cattle and milk firm.

The sanctions freeze any assets the group, its businesses and several of its high-profile members may hold in the United States, and prohibits U.S. residents and firms from dealing with them.

Honduras's new government has also stepped up its battle against organized crime and earlier this week seized more than 50 properties belonging to the Valle family, which runs the gang.

Most of the raids took place near the Guatemalan border, where drug traffickers are suspected of moving tons of cocaine on its way from South America to the United States.

"(Treasury) stands with the Honduran authorities to combat the drug trafficking threat and protect the U.S. financial system from their illicit proceeds," Adam Szubin, director of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, said in a statement.

Since taking office in January, Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernandez has increased the use of the military to fight drug traffickers, who are blamed for spreading brutal violence in the country with the world's highest murder rate. (Reporting by Anna Yukhananov; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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