TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — Honduras' top prosecutor said Thursday he had no information about allegations of money laundering laid out in a U.S. indictment against three members of one of the country's most powerful business families.
"Regarding the actions of a New York court against the Rosenthals I cannot speak because I don't know the issue," Honduran Attorney General Oscar Chinchilla said.
He spoke a day after U.S. authorities revealed a federal indictment from New York against Jaime Rosenthal, his son Yani Rosenthal and his nephew Yankel Rosenthal, on money laundering charges.
Yankel Rosenthal was arrested Tuesday at the airport in Miami. On Wednesday, the U.S. Justice and Treasury departments said Wednesday that the family used its extensive business interests to launder money for Central American drug traffickers. Until June, Yankel Rosenthal had been a minister in President Juan Orlando Hernandez's government.
Yani Rosenthal, in an interview with a local television station, denied that the family had ever participated in drug trafficking.
"We have hired lawyers in the United States ... and we will proceed to prove our innocence because we have received tremendous national support," he said.
Chinchilla has been a target of regular popular protests in Honduras for several months. Protesters also have called for Hernandez to resign and for an international commission against impunity to be formed to root out corruption.
Honduras has an extradition treaty with the United States and has sent some drug traffickers to face justice there.
The indictment also named Andres Acosta Garcia, a lawyer for the Rosenthals' businesses. Each faces a charge of money laundering, which can bring as many as 20 years in prison.
The Rosenthal family's Grupo Continental includes diverse businesses such as a cement factory, real estate holdings, a telecommunications company and the newspaper Tiempo. Jaime Rosenthal is the president and his son Yani is vice president.
Jaime Rosenthal is a former vice president of Honduras and ran several times unsuccessfully for the presidency. Yani Rosenthal was a minister in the government of then President Manuel Zelaya.
The Rosenthals' Banco Continental is the first foreign bank specially designated under the U.S. Kingpin Act, which targets drug traffickers.
U.S. Ambassador James Nealon said through his official Twitter account that the actions by the U.S. government "make clear that impunity will not stand."