TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) – A Honduran bank caught up in a U.S. money-laundering investigation will remain closed until Wednesday and will eventually be liquidated, government officials said Monday.
The Banco Continental is Honduras' eighth largest. Its owner, Jaime Rosenthal, has been charged along with a son, a nephew and a company lawyer with money laundering in a federal court in New York. The nephew, Yankel Rosenthal, was arrested last week in Miami.
U.S. prosecutors allege the Rosenthals used their network of businesses, including the bank, to launder money for Central American drug traffickers. The family has denied the allegations.
"All savings are going to be returned," said Roberto Carlos Salinas, commissioner of the National Banking and Insurance Commission.
Banco Continental has remained closed for several days following a national holiday and weekend. Clients and employees had lined up for days over the weekend in hopes of making withdrawals.
The Rosenthals are among Honduras' most powerful and well-connected business families. Jaime Rosenthal served as a vice president and ran for president on multiple occasions. His nephew Yankel Rosenthal was a minister for investment promotion in the current government of President Juan Orlando Hernández until he left without explanation in June. He also owns one of the country's most successful soccer clubs, Marathon.
Hernández promised the approximately 11,000 employees of Grupo Continental, the Rosenthals' umbrella company, they would be paid. He assured citizens that the country's financial system was solid.
The president said the more than 220,000 clients of Banco Continental will soon be able to withdraw at least $10,000 of their deposits and the remainder would be returned gradually.
Evasio Asencio, who the Honduran government designated to liquidate the bank, said doors would open on Wednesday.
On Monday, Mario Solis, manager of Seguros Continental, the Rosenthals' insurance company, called the impact a "financial tsunami" for Honduras.
"There's uncertainty," Solis said. "And a lot of questions arise like: What is going to happen to this company (Seguros Continental) when Banco Continental has all of its funds? What is going to happen to the employees?"
Banco Continental is being investigated under the U.S. Treasury under the Kingpin Act, which targets drug traffickers and their assets. Despite the bank's liquidation, Honduran authorities have not launched their own investigation of the Rosenthals or their businesses.