HomeNewsAnalysisHow Elites and Narcos Do Business, Politics in Honduras

How Elites and Narcos Do Business, Politics in Honduras


As Honduras remains riveted on the trial of Tony Hernández, a document from the case file reveals details of another drug trafficking connection involving one of Central America’s wealthiest and most politically connected families. 

Exhibit G from US v. Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernández -- the landmark trial in New York against the brother of sitting Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández -- is a straightforward legal request by the US prosecutor to a judge for access to “non-content information” from emails stored on various private servers. 

As a justification for its request, the exhibit details numerous connections between one of Honduras’ foremost drug trafficking clans, popularly known as the Cachiros, and one of the country’s most powerful families, the Rosenthal clan.  

A Weighty List of Targets

The document, dated July 2, 2015, lists the targets of the investigation, which include Jaime Rosenthal, the recently deceased patriarch and former Honduran vice president; Jaime’s son, Yani, who ran for president once and may do so again; and Jaime’s nephew, Yankel, then the president of Marathon, one of Honduras’ premier soccer clubs, which was owned by the family.

In October 2015, US prosecutors charged Jaime, Yani, Yankel, as well as a company lawyer, Andres Acosta, with drug trafficking and money laundering, among other crimes. But as opposed to the Tony Hernández case, the Rosenthal case did not go to trial. Yani, Yankel, and Acosta pleaded guilty and were sentenced independently. Presumably because of their cooperation in theirs and other cases, US authorities did not press Honduras to extradite Jaime, who died in Honduras in January 2019.

SEE ALSO: Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

What’s more, many of the only details of the relationship between the Cachiros and the Rosenthal family came from InSight Crime’s interview with Jaime Rosenthal and his daughter Patricia in June 2015, in which Jaime described how the Rivera Maradiaga family -- then a group of cattle rustlers -- began selling their cows to the Rosenthal-owned meat-packing plant. 

“They were good clients for us,” Patricia Rosenthal told InSight Crime, before handing over a copy of a check written by the head of the Cachiros, Javier Rivera Maradiaga. 

Exhibit G fills in some of the rest of that story. 

Cut-rate Cattle and Machinery from Malaysia

As the Rosenthals told InSight Crime, it all began with cattle. But the Rosenthals omitted a key detail: that cattle was “purchased,” as the prosecutor says, with proceeds from drug trafficking. The Rosenthals’ defense was that they didn't have the resources to verify their clients were above board. Jaime showed InSight Crime a letter he’d sent to the embassy requesting assistance in vetting the clients.

But then the relationship deepened much more than Jaime had explained in the interview. In 2009, the prosecutor says, Jaime transferred a parcel of land to CW-1 (Confidential Witness One.) CW-1 was presumably either the oldest brother, Javier, the middle brother, Devis, or their younger brother, Santos Isidro. The three made up the core of the Cachiros. By then, all three had turned themselves in to US authorities and had become cooperating witnesses in numerous cases, including the one against the Rosenthals. 

In return for the land, Jaime expected to get “below-market rate” prices for the cows the Rivera Maradiaga family were selling to them, the US prosecutor says in the exhibit. This was not a small deal -- the Rosenthal family were one of the largest meat and dairy providers in Honduras during this time period.

The land was also for the Rivera Maradiaga family’s new business, Palbasa, an African palm plantation business. As part of this new business, CW-1 channeled “$2 or $3 million in cash … which constituted narcotics proceeds” through Jaime Rosenthal to a Malaysian firm for equipment to sow and harvest the palm. 

The plantations, Honduran authorities told InSight Crime when it investigated the Cachiros, were also used to receive airplanes hauling cocaine from South America. 

Soccer Teams and Third-Party Ownership

Sometime in 2008, the prosecutor says in the exhibit, Yankel met CW-2, confidential witness two, who is presumably a Rivera Maradiaga family member or associate. The prosecutor says CW-2 subsequently told Yankel that he was a drug trafficker and in “2010 or 2011” invested $400,000 in Yankel’s soccer team. 

The relationship between the Rosenthal family and the Cachiros via soccer went beyond this investment. As InSight Crime wrote in 2014, Banco Continental advertised with the Cachiros-owned team in Tocoa, Colon, the drug gang’s center of operations. 

SEE ALSO: Honduras News and Profiles

“This is the first time that somebody has mentioned the possibility that football can be used to laundry [sic] money,” Jaime Rosenthal wrote in an email to InSight Crime following the publication of that article.

The relationship between Yankel and CW-2 deepened after his investment in the soccer team. The prosecutor says that in 2011, CW-2 changed the ownership of a property worth $1.6 million to one of Yankel’s “associates” in order to shield it from authorities.

And in “2011 or 2012,” the prosecutor says CW-2 sent $800,000 to one of Yankel’s attorneys, so Yankel could purchase property for him. 

Funding for a Presidential Campaign

In “2012 or 2013,” the prosecutor says CW-2 and CW-3, confidential witness three -- one of the three Rivera Maradiaga brothers -- met Yani and Yankel. During the meeting, Yani asked for them to contribute to his presidential bid and to work as the go-between to obtain contributions from other drug traffickers so Yani “would not have to have direct contact with them.” 

The prosecutor does not indicate if the Cachiros provided any funding or served as interlocutors for other donations. Yani lost in the Liberal Party primary. And despite his guilty plea in the United States, he was rumored to be preparing another bid for the presidency.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


Related Content


Dominican officials have banned 12 Haitian gang leaders and one of its top politicians from entering the country.


In 2016, two adopted nephews of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro were found guilty of a conspiracy to bring 800 kilograms…


Honduras has freed dozens of individuals tied to organized crime a year after reforming its money laundering law.

About InSight Crime


All Eyes on Ecuador

2 JUN 2023

Our coverage of organized crime in Ecuador continues to be a valuable resource for international and local news outlets. Internationally, Reuters cited our 2022 Homicide Round-Up,…


Open Position: Social Media and Engagement Strategist

27 MAY 2023

InSight Crime is looking for a Social Media and Engagement Strategist who will be focused on maintaining and improving InSight Crime’s reputation and interaction with its audiences through publishing activities…


Venezuela Coverage Receives Great Reception

27 MAY 2023

Several of InSight Crime’s most recent articles about Venezuela have been well received by regional media. Our article on Venezuela’s colectivos expanding beyond their political role to control access to…


InSight Crime's Chemical Precursor Report Continues

19 MAY 2023

For the second week in a row, our investigation into the flow of precursor chemicals for the manufacture of synthetic drugs in Mexico has been cited by multiple regional media…


InSight Crime’s Chemical Precursor Report Widely Cited


We are proud to see that our recently published investigation into the supply chain of chemical precursors feeding Mexico’s synthetic drug production has been warmly received.