TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Bank accounts and assets seized last week from a gang of suspected Honduran drug traffickers wanted by the U.S. government are worth $800 million, a police official said on Thursday.
"In a first phase, properties, mansions, haciendas and bank accounts worth $800 million have been seized from the organization known as Los Cachiros," said Juan Bonilla, police chief of Honduras.
Authorities said the mass seizures against Los Cachiros included hotels, luxury houses, gas stations and the biggest zoo in Honduras that housed lions, tigers, giraffes and hippos.
The gang is accused by the U.S. Treasury Department of trafficking narcotics for organizations including the Sinaloa Cartel, one of the most powerful drug-running outfits in Mexico.
The leaders of the group remain at large. Officials said further raids were taking place targeting another criminal gang known as Los Valle with alleged links to the Sinaloa Cartel.
The seizures were made under a 2010 law that enables Honduras to confiscate assets believed to be of illicit origin. Suspected traffickers must now prove that the assets were not acquired with criminal proceeds, officials say.
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 Cynthia Osterman)