Authorities in Honduras are preparing to sell off extradited drug trafficker Carlos "El Negro" Lobo's properties, another step in criminal proceedings that have moved unusually fast and serve as an indication of the current government's political will to target organized crime.
A court ruling has expropriated properties belonging to Lobo that Honduran authorities seized during several operations in 2011, 2012 and 2014, reported La Prensa. When the ruling goes into effect on September 5, Honduras' Administrative Office of Seized Properties (OABI) will determine the value of the assets and auction many of them off, distributing the proceeds to different government institutions.
According to La Tribuna, authorities have finished appraising 37 properties, which have an estimated value of more than $8 million. The OABI has confiscated dozens assets from the extradited drug trafficker, including 18 fishing boats, four fishing companies, 43 homes, and 22 vehicles. The country's former Defense Minister Marlon Pascua previously said that in total the seized properties were worth over $14 million, reported La Prensa.
Raul Suaz, Lobo's attorney, told La Prensa he planned to appeal the expropriation of the properties, based on the fact his client had not been convicted of drug trafficking in Honduras and did not even have a criminal record in the country.
InSight Crime Analysis
Lobo's extradition to the United States in May marked the first time Honduras had extradited a Honduran citizen to the United States in nearly a century. The extradition came less than two months after Lobo's arrest, making it a swift process that seemed to indicate a strong political will to tackle organized crime and cooperate with US authorities.
There have been several other recent signs the country is taking a tougher stance on organized crime, and particularly targeting the finances of major criminals. Last week, Honduras seized over 50 properties belonging to the Valles criminal clan, following the arrest of family member Digna Valle Valle in the United States in July. Following a recent visit to border town El Espiritu -- the Valles operational base -- La Prensa highlighted the juxtaposition between the Valles' luxury mansions and the humble abodes of the rest of the population, as well as the town's extreme economic dependence on the group.
At the end of July, authorities also seized properties from the family of convicted drug trafficker Juan Ramon Matta Ballesteros, who was believed to have been Honduras' first major drug trafficker. In addition, Honduran authorities have gone after transport group the Cachiros, seizing $800 million in assets from the organization in 2013, although there have been no formal charges filed against the group's members.
SEE ALSO: Valles Profile
Assuming Lobo's assets are indeed auctioned off in September, this would also represent a relatively quick property seizure process in Latin America. Honduras, Mexico and neighboring Guatemala have all struggled with bureaucratic challenges as they work to employ relatively new property seizure legislation as a tool against drug traffickers, and such processes have been known to take years.