Honduran bank at center of money laundering case to be shut down

TEGUCIGALPA, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Honduras’ banking regulator said it will take control of Banco Continental and force its liquidation after the lender was accused by U.S. authorities of laundering the proceeds of drug money for more than a decade.

Last week, the U.S. Treasury Department classified seven businesses linked to several members of a prominent Honduran family, including Grupo Continental and its Banco Continental unit, as “specially designated narcotics traffickers,” which allows for the freezing of assets under U.S. control.

Grupo Continental, headed by prominent banker and politician Jaime Rosenthal along with his son Yani, have been accused of leading one of Central America’s most significant money laundering networks beginning in 2004 and continuing through last month.

Another family member, Yankel Rosenthal, the president of professional soccer team Club Deportivo Marathon and until June a minister of investment in President Juan Orlando Hernandez’s government, was arrested in Miami last week in connection with the case.

The Rosenthal family, one of Honduras’ wealthiest and most politically connected families, deny the allegations.

Honduran banking regulator CNBS said on Sunday the decision to shut down the bank was approved on Friday and that the accounts of more than 220,000 of the bank’s depositors would be guaranteed for up to about $9,000.

Reporting by Gustavo Palencia; Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Edwina Gibbs