One of Honduras' major banks will remain shut until Wednesday and will eventually be liquidated after its owners were accused by the United States of laundering money for drug traffickers.
According to U.S. prosecutors, Banco Continental owner Jaime Rosenthal, his son Yani Rosenthal, his nephew Yankel Rosenthal, as well as a company lawyer, used their network of businesses – including their bank – to launder money for Central American drug traffickers.
The three men were charged by a federal court in New York for the crime, while Yankel was arrested last week in the Miami airport. The Rosenthals have denied all allegations.
The charges come after the U.S. Treasury Department announced that the bank's parent company, Grupo Continental, and other assets held by the Rosenthals are being listed under the Kingpin Act – U.S. federal legislation that deals with foreign narcotics.
Details of the charges have not been released, so it remains unclear how the Rosenthals were carrying out the scheme.
The Rosenthals are among Honduras' most powerful and well-connected business families, while Jaime also played a role in the nation's politics, serving as vice president of Honduras from 1986-1990.
The family-owned conglomerate of businesses also include media, financial services, real estate and construction firms, according to local media.
On Saturday, Honduras' National Commission on Banking and Insurance voted to force the liquidation of the Banco Continental, which banking officials said would happen later this week.
The president of Honduras' banking regulator, Ethel Deras, said the bank would remain closed until Wednesday and the government would begin distributing compensation to the bank's clients later this week. All depositors will be compensated up to US$9,000 (200,000 lempiras), any remaining funds after that will be paid out according to the country's banking law, said Deras.
The banking regulator tried to assure customers that there are sufficient funds to pay all parties what they are due.