This banned US citizens from any financial transactions with him.
Also named as part of the drug organization were his wife, Ena Elizabeth Hernandez Amaya, and his father, Jose Miguel Handal Larach. The US Treasury department named all three as drug kingpins under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin act. OFAC Director Adam Tzubin said of Handal:
"Chepe Handal plays a critical role in the transportation and distribution of drug shipments between South America and the Sinaloa Cartel and Los Zetas."
Also added to the list were businesses importing Chinese car parts, Chinese motorcycles and parts, and a Peruvian horse breeding ranch belonging to the Handals (father and/or son). OFAC released a chart of the businesses affected here.
A Treasury Department press release noted that on March 3, 2011, Chepe Handal was indicted by a Federal Grand Jury in the Southern District of Florida and charged with one count of "conspiracy to distribute cocaine with knowledge that it will be unlawfully imported into the United States."
This is the first time the US Department of the Treasury has named a Honduran as a drug kingpin. Chepe Handal denied the accusations and told the AFP
"They fell on me like a bucket of water. We are trying to clarify the situation, as we do not know where they originate."
He went further with the Honduran press, and called on the Honduran government to investigate his businesses. He said to an interviewer in Proceso Digital:
"We have said from the first moment this happened that the doors of our businesses are open, we will give them all the information that is needed because we have nothing to hide."
Handal's father said:
"We're going to sue the United States, neither my family nor myself are drug runners"
Chepe Handal is the brother of Esteban Handal, a failed presidential candidate for the Liberal Party in last November's primary election. Chepe Handal himself ran to be a candidate for Congress in the same elections as a member of his brother's faction of the Liberal Party, and he also lost.
On Chepe Handal's website from his failed campaign for congress, under the heading of security, he said he would
"promote laws that favor the people so that we can count on quality security in all the corners of the country, and also to support the police so that they can be treated with dignity in all senses of the word and so they can count on the support of the national government.....Your well being is my obligation."
After he and his brother failed in their election bids, Chepe Handal affiliated himself with Libre, the political party that arose from resistance to the coup of 2009, but not in a position of leadership or as a candidate for office.
Last week, the Honduran government, along with the Drug Enforcement Agency, took Chepe up on his suggestion to investigate and moved to secure all of the houses and businesses owned in Honduras by Chepe Handal, his wife, and his father. The officers raiding the houses found them literally empty, except for "exotic animals in cages" in the father's house, and 22 horses on the ranch.
Everything that belonged to the Handals had been removed from the houses in the intervening week so that quite literally they had "nothing to hide" because they left nothing behind.
The Honduran daily paper Tiempo reported that Chepe Handal was notified a week ago via text message that the confiscation was going to happen, but even so, to pack up and clean out three houses and 10 businesses in a week is a monumental task. Where are all their household goods located now? Where are the three alleged drug kingpins themselves? Why did no one notice all this activity?
The day afer the raid, the same Honduran government officials moved against the businesses of Chepe Handal and his father, seizing their books and inventory. Under Honduran law, they had 72 hours to protest the seizures in court. In three months, the court that authorized the seizures will issue an opinion deciding whether or not these properties are forfeited because of criminal activity and therefore belong to the government.
The very same day that the Handal properties were seized, Honduras's most successful prosecutor for the Public Minister's Office of Money Laundering, Orlán Chávez, was assassinated in Tegucigalpa.
He literally wrote Honduras's law on money laundering and the law that set up the government agency that holds properties seized under the law-- like the ones seized from the Handals.
The Public Prosecutor's office is reportedly investigating whether the assassination was "planned in the north", meaning in San Pedro Sula, where Chepe Handal and his father lived.
Orlán Chávez was reportedly to travel to San Pedro Sula today to help in an organized crime case "involving the Mexicans".
To date, no criminal charges have been filed against Chepe Handal in Honduras. Nor has the US requested his extradition.