Authorities in Honduras have seized 52 properties belonging to one of the country's premier drug trafficking groups -- the Valle family -- in a move that could represent the beginning of a larger assault on the powerful clan.
On August 18, authorities seized properties belonging to siblings Luis Alfonso, Miguel Arnulfo, Digna and Deisy Valle Valle in the provinces of Copan and Cortes. The operation involved over 200 police, prosecutors and personnel from the Administrative Office of Seized Assets (OABI), reported La Prensa.
The properties included various residences and terrains, five estates, a farm, a hardware store, a cattle ranching business and a cafe. The residences were fitted out with luxury items, including pools, jacuzzis and bars. In one home, there was even a zone for erotic dance performances and a "mini-hotel" for housing special guests, reported El Heraldo.
No arrests were made during the operation, reported La Tribuna. Authorities found the properties completely empty of any signs of life, reported El Heraldo. According to the regional commander of the special force Fusina, German Alfaro, the suspects had likely fled following the July capture of Digna Valle Valle in the United States.
Other Valle properties are thought to be held currently in the names of front men.
InSight Crime Analysis
Luis Alfonso and Miguel Arnulfo allegedly run drug trafficking operations mainly out of the western Copan province -- on the border with Guatemala -- using a small criminal network. The Valles are thought to move up to 20 tons of cocaine a month through Honduras, mainly destined for the Sinaloa Cartel, with their operations facilitated by local government protection.
SEE ALSO:Valles Profile
Following on from the US arrest of Digna Valle Valle, the recent property seizures could represent the beginning of a wider move against the group in Honduras, likely spurred by pressure from the United States, which has indicted the family.
It is also one of several moves indicating Honduras' government is targeting previously untouchable criminals. Last September, authorities seized $800 million in assets from the Cachiros -- Honduras' other major transport group -- also in the face of US pressure. Earlier this month, 17 properties were confiscated from the children of former drug trafficker Juan Ramon Matta Ballesteros, and this past spring, Honduras completed its first extradition to the US of a major drug trafficker.
However, the question is what happens next. With no charges yet filed against any member of the Valles in Honduras, it is possible the property seizures are little more than a surface-level show put on for the US authorities. On the other hand, authorities may be purposely not issuing charges since any charges levied in Honduras could complicate extradition processes further down the line.