Honduran police detain alleged drug kingpin 'Chepe' Handal

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 13, 2015 3:19 AM

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Honduran military police arrested on Thursday Jose Miguel "Chepe" Handal, the alleged leader of a drug trafficking organization that coordinated the shipment of tons of Colombian cocaine via Mexican cartels to the United States.

Handal, a prominent Honduran businessman, was taken into custody without a struggle in the northwestern city of San Pedro Sula near a hospital where his father was receiving treatment, President Juan Orlando Hernandez said in a television interview.

Hernandez said Honduran judges would likely be in charge of the case because there has not yet been an extradition request from the United States.

Since 2013, the U.S. government has identified Handal as a drug trafficking kingpin who supplied Colombian cocaine to Mexico's Sinaloa and rival Los Zetas cartels using clandestine airstrips as well as land-based routes into Guatemala, where the Mexican gangs have a presence.

Handal's father and his wife were also designated as leaders of the organization by the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control.

"After several months of searching, today Chepe Handal has been detained and will now be judged," Hernandez said in a post on his Twitter page.

Drug-related violence in Honduras has increased in recent years since Mexico's drug cartels expanded there, enlisting Honduran gangs and using its Caribbean coast to transport South American cocaine to consumers in the United States.

(Reporting by Gustavo Palencia; Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Paul Tait)