U.S. authorities aggressively apply money anti-laundering and
anti-corruption laws on persons and companies beyond the U.S.
In a recent case, the U.S. authorities investigated the
commercial activities of Jaime Rosenthal (Honduras Vice President
in 1986-1990) and his family. The Rosenthals are a well-known
Honduran family with substantial economic and political power. They
own Grupo Continental – a group comprising 50 companies
involved in banking activities, other financial services, real
estate, agriculture, tourism, and telecommunications.
On October 7, 2015, Jaime Rosenthal-Oliva, his son Yani
Rosenthal-Hidalgo (Minister for the Presidency of Honduras from
2006 to 2009), his nephew Yankel Rosenthal-Coello, and seven of
their companies were designated by the Office of Foreign Assets
Control of the U.S. Department of the Treasury ("OFAC")
as drug traffickers under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation
Act, also known as the Kingpin Act. OFAC's designation came
about after having determined that the Rosenthal family members
involved as well as several companies had provided "money
laundering and other services to support international drug
trafficking by many Central American drug traffickers and their
criminal organizations." Banco Continental S.A. is
included among the companies and subsidiaries designated by OFAC.
Banco Continental S.A. is an important Honduran bank and, according
to OFAC, it was an integral part of and an enabler for money
laundering operations deriving from drug trafficking.
A drug trafficker designation brings about serious consequences,
including assets freeze involving all designated persons as well as
a prohibition to U.S. citizens and companies to enter into any
transaction or to do business with them. Besides, the U.S.
Department of Justice filed criminal charges against three
Rosenthal family members on grounds of money laundering – a
criminal offense that is penalized with 20-year imprisonment.
Yankel Rosenthal-Coello was imprisoned when entering the United
States and Yani Rosenthal-Hildalgo voluntarily surrendered before
the U.S. authorities. Both were released on bail while waiting to
be criminally sentenced. The U.S. authorities have asked Honduras
to extradite Jaime Rosenthal who is being indicted on grounds of
tax fraud and falsification of public documents by the Honduran
As a result of those legal actions in the United States, the
National Banking and Insurance Commission of Honduras conducted its
own investigations and determined that by reason of the asset
freeze affecting Banco Continental in the United States the bank
has incurred a cause for dissolution and, therefore, it breached
local financial laws.
As a result of those violations and due to the sanctions imposed
in the United States, the National Banking and Insurance Commission
of Honduras declared the forced liquidation of Banco
This case demonstrates the aggressiveness of U.S. authorities
when their anti-laundering laws are applied upon individuals and
corporations outside of the U.S. borders.
Besides, the case demonstrates the importance for financial
companies and entities to have sound anti-laundering and corporate
compliance programs to prevent the perpetration of illicit
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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