Correction: Honduras-Drug Arrest story

AP News
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Posted: Mar 17, 2015 5:11 PM

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — In a story March 13 about the capture of a Honduran businessman accused of drug trafficking, The Associated Press reported erroneously that the U.S. had requested his extradition. Honduran officials say they have not received any such request.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Honduras arrests businessman accused of drug trafficking

Honduras arrests businessman accused in US of drug trafficking

By FREDDY CUEVAS

Associated Press

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — Honduran authorities have captured a prominent businessman wanted in the United States on drug-trafficking charges.

Jose Miguel Handal, 42, was arrested Thursday outside a hospital in San Pedro Sula as he tried to visit his ill father, authorities said. Handal is accused in the United States of running an organization responsible for distributing tons of cocaine from Colombia to the Mexican Sinaloa cartel and the Zetas.

"What goes around ... comes around," said President Juan Orlando Hernandez via his Twitter account. "After many months of pursuit, they've captured 'Chepe' Handal to bring him to justice. Congratulations."

He also faces charges in Florida federal district court on conspiracy to distribute cocaine illegally to the U.S. Handal denied the charges publicly in 2013, shortly before he went on the run.

He said his money was earned legitimately through his businesses, including Supertiendas Handal, a discount store popular among the middle and working classes.

Prosecutor Rene Diaz told The Associated Press that Handal was in a luxury vehicle in the hospital parking lot and tried to flee when he saw the police. But he was surrounded by more than 100 agents and was taken from his car and handcuffed without incident.

Authorities said he was taken to Roatan, an island in the Caribbean, where he also faces drug-trafficking charges.

The U.S. Office for the Control of Foreign Assets in 2013 froze Handal's assets and blocked U.S. companies from doing business with him based on the accusations, including that he invests in and coordinates drug-laden flights from Venezuela to Honduras. His father Jose Miguel Handal and his wife Ena Elizabeth Hernandez were also named to the Treasury Department list.

Since then, authorities have seized many of his properties, including a ranch, three homes in San Pedro Sula and his stores Autopartes Handal, Cleopatra and Easy Cash.

Handal ran unsuccessfully for congress in 2012 for the Liberty and Reformation Party led by ex-president Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in a 2009 coup.

On Friday, Honduran soldiers and police also arrested a mayor from the Caribbean region on drug trafficking charges.

Honduras' security chief, Gen. Julian Pacheco, said in a news conference that 230 soldiers and police had participated in the operation to snag Enrique Matute Meza, mayor of San Francisco.

During the two-day operation, agents raided 23 luxury haciendas and seized five armored vehicles. Matute Meza had been under investigation since 2002 and was wanted for drug and arms trafficking and money laundering, Pacheco said.