Belize - Belize News - - Great Belize Productions - Belize Breaking News
Home » Crime, Featured, Regional / International » John/Dion Zabaneh assets to be frozen in U.S.
Aug 8, 2012

John/Dion Zabaneh assets to be frozen in U.S.

John Zabaneh

Belizean John Zabaneh, his nephew Dion and Daniel Moreno from Corozal Town have been linked to the most powerful and dangerous drug cartel in Mexico. The United States announced on Tuesday that the Treasury Department was freezing the assets of the Zabaneh’s and Moreno and prohibiting American companies from conducting business with them. Zabaneh has never been convicted in Belize but the long arms of the US law have stretched out to him here. News Five’s Joe Sanchez has a glimpse of what the US decision means.


Jose Sanchez, Reporting

Dion Zabaneh

Fifty-six year old John Zabaneh, a prominent figure in the banana industry, has been labeled by the U.S. government as a drug lord living in Belize. A press release from the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced the designation of John Zabaneh as the head of his own drug trafficking organization. Lower on the chart are his thirty seven year old nephew Dion Zabaneh and a Corozal resident forty-year old Daniel Gonzalo Moreno as associates, all allegedly Sinaloa Cartel Operatives in Belize. The Prime Minister Dean Barrow was notified of the cartel links by the U.S. Ambassador to Belize, Vinai Thummalapally.


Dean Barrow

“I was officially informed by the ambassador that this was happening but as it was explained to me and as I saw in looking at the sort of public information notice, there is no arrest warrant issue for these people, there is no request for extradition. It’s not at that level or at that stage at all, at all. What this is, is a designation by US Treasury under a US law that allows the treasury to say certain persons are designated as associates of cartels, associates of drug traffickers and the consequence of that designation or one of the consequences is that the person’s assets are frozen in the States and that US Nationals anywhere are prevented from doing business with them. That is the extent of this development. Whether there is more to come, I can’t say. But certainly, as of now there is nothing that the United States is asking of Belize government so that there is nothing we officially need to do.”


Daniel Moreno

The designation comes under the Kingpin Act which prohibits U.S. businesses or citizens from commercial activities with them. Together, their known assets are Mid-South Investments, Crown Paradise Enterprises, Belize Chemicals, D’s Supermarket, and more importantly Mayan King Limited, one of the major exporters of banana.


Jose Sanchez

“The businesses that carry that family name such as Maya King; there are many farms, it must have an economic impact on the country.”


Dean Barrow

Dean Barrow

“These are principally banana farms and as far as I know, their banana output goes primarily to the United Kingdom. But you make a valid point. I am sure that while it is US Nationals that are prevented from doing business with Maya King and other of the Zabaneh enterprises, somehow in terms of payment, sooner or later you end up with the United States being at least some sort of a transit point I would imagine for the remittance of funds. I don’t know the details and so I won’t try to get any more into it except to say that it may well be that this designation turns out to have a chilling economic effect indeed on the Mayan King banana undertaking and I believe that Mayan King banana farm is a significant producer of the national banana output, but we will just have to see how it plays out.”


Adam J. Szubin

O.F.A.C. Director Adam J. Szubin said, “John Zabaneh’s drug trafficking activities and his organization’s ties to Colombian sources of supply and Mexican buyers make him a critical figure in the narcotics trade…” and By designating Zabaneh, OFAC is disrupting those activities and continuing its efforts, alongside those of our law enforcement partners, to expose operatives of Chapo Guzman and the Sinaloa Cartel.


Jose Sanchez

“Should the US then decide that they want these gentlemen, John and Dion, they could put some pressure upon the government, or they need not put pressure; they may simply find the legal means to say ‘we want them’. What would be government’s position should they say, ‘we have evidence’?


Dean Barrow

“Well, we have an extradition treaty with the United States and everything—if the United States should think that it has the evidence that justifies making and issuing an arrest warrant charging these people in the US and making a request of the Belize authorities for extradition, there’s a well worn protocol, there’s a well worn legal regime that would need to be followed and that’s what would happen.”


According to the release John Zabaneh and his organization have been involved in narcotics trafficking since the 1980’s.  Coincidentally, in November 2011, Horst M. Schoenhoff, the C.E.O. of Mayan King Ltd was sought for questioning in relation to parole violation, stemming from a brief conviction in the U.S. for his role in the exportation of drugs from Belize to the US in 1984 and 1985. Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.


Internationally, OFAC has designated more than one thousand, one hundred businesses and individuals linked to ninety-seven drug kingpins since June 2000.  Penalties for violations of the Kingpin Act range from civil penalties of up to one million dollars per violation to more severe criminal penalties.  Criminal penalties for corporate officers may include up to thirty years in prison and fines up to five million dollars. Criminal fines for corporations may reach ten million dollars.  Other individuals could face up to ten years in prison and fines pursuant to Title eighteen of the United States Code for criminal violations of the Kingpin Act.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

Advertise Here

20 Responses for “John/Dion Zabaneh assets to be frozen in U.S.”

  1. Storm says:

    It’s true that part of the international drug problem is the demand from the US and other wealthy countries. But ALL of it is a dirty business based on selling poison marketed with violence, murder, and corruption. I’m not proud for Belize to be a haven for drug traffickers, and we all see how the Jewel has deteriorated so quickly since drug traffickers and money launderers have made their homes here. IT IS UNDENIABLE THAT POVERTY HAS INCREASED IN THE JEWEL DURING THIS DRUG ERA. SO HAS THE MURDER RATE.

    Do YOU feel Belize is better off being the home for the cartels and their operatives? Not me.

    So I welcome any steps that can be brought to bear to free the Jewel of traffickers, launderers, and all the officials they corrupt. GOB cannot do it on its own, just like Mexico cannot kill the cartels alone — the governments are already too compromised and infiltrated. I hope and believe these financial sanctions are just the first move in a process that will end with criminal trials. Who knows what wiretaps, electronic intercepts, and informants the DEA has already used to gather the evidence that led to the sanctions?

    I pray for the day any Belizean who wants to work can have an honest job for fair pay, and we can walk the streets in peace and safety. We had more of that once, and not long ago.

  2. NY says:

    These folks wouldn’t have been put on blast unless the U.S gov had sufficient evidence to back up its’ case, because the U.S department of justice is totally aware of the libelous lawsuit that these individuals could levy against the U.S gov. The U.S has the ability to track you down with the aid of its’ sophistaced computerize systems; they could actually see you anywhere in the world via their satellites. It’s a good thing they are not asking for them to be extradited, I assume they are just warning them and the G.O.B, because to the U.S, these guys are less than one percent of their ultimate objective which is the hierarchy, and the head of the cartel.

  3. Uncle Benji says:

    If Zabaneh’s accountants failed to advise Zabaneh about keeping any kind of asset or investment within the United States borders, then they should be fired for incompetency and exposed to the public as idiots.

    It has been no secret that Uncle Sam had the hots for the Zabaneh outfit, thus the precaution should have been in place.

    Hopefully, the frozen assets are minimal; and if the Zabanehs are really tied to Mexican drug cartels, then they should be able to recoup their losses quickly.

    Belizeans (real Belizeans – not Belizeans turned to American @$$ kissers) are with you Mr. Zabaneh. Hang tough. It is going to get rough; but in the end you will prevail.

  4. Buju says:


  5. Dumb Benji says:

    You are an idiot Benji! The US will cutt the hand that is currently feeding you. These drug lords create these business to manipulate the people it feeds and unfortunately you are one. These folks will eventually be handed down to US authorities and will be sentenced to LIFE in jail. Karma is a ^&*() and we all know it. So Benji, eat up what you can… and real belizeans don’t need people like this in thier lives. So good luck Benji and don’t worry I will spare you a dollar when I see you on the street.

  6. horststory says:

    The government’s theory as to this episode is that Barrington decided to sell his aircraft and use the proceeds to bring in a big cocaine load from Colombia. The Titan 404 was sold for some $170,000 in late January or early February, 1985. Barrington again was alleged to be the principal organizer of the conspiracy. He obtained a Merlin turbo-prop airplane in Oklahoma City. He and Kuntze arranged for a cocaine “source” in Colombia. The plane took off for Colombia on June 24, 1985, from New Orleans, carrying Barrington and a crew of three others who are not involved in this appeal. The Merlin ran low of fuel and landed at Maraquita airport in Colombia on June 24. Barrington and the others were arrested by Colombian authorities and charged with violation of Colombian air space. The Merlin was confiscated by Colombian authorities, but no drugs or other contraband were found on it. Two weeks later, Barrington put up bond and left Colombia.

  7. horststory says:

    Spratlen testified that Goff had told him on November 27, 1984, that he was “going to smuggle some marihuana from Belize with a guy named Frenchie,” that Horst Schoenhoff was called Frenchie, that Schoenhoff told him that he had loaded or supervised loading the marihuana later seized at Tye, and that Schoenhoff subsequently expressed puzzlement and concern that it had been seized. The notation on Barrington’s hotel charge slip tends to corroborate Schoenhoff’s presence on this last occasion as does other testimony by Spratlen

  8. horststory3 says:

    choenhoff’s involvement in the Granbury episode likewise is fully demonstrated by the evidence. Spratlen testified that Barrington told him in mid-December, 1984, that “a man called Horst from Belize would be his Belize connection where he would get the marihuana.” Barrington also had introduced him to Schoenhoff prior to the Granbury trip, saying “This is Horst and he’s the man from Belize that we’ll be doing business with.” Afterwards Spratlen talked with Schoenhoff “about going down and picking up some marihuana of high quality.”
    161Spratlen testified further that Schoenhoff told him that he had personally loaded the Granbury marihuana. There was other testimony that Schoenhoff was closely associated with Barrington and the Granbury episode. According to Spratlen, Barrington and Schoenhoff received money derived from the transaction, and flew with it in their suitcases from Texas to Las Vegas on January 9 or 10, 1985. The government presented corroborating circumstantial evidence, in particular a customs declaration dated January 6, 1985, showing that a person named Horst Schoenhoff had entered New Orleans on that date via an airline serving Belize. In addition, a California narcotics officer who had been keeping Schoenhoff’s residence in South Lake Tahoe under surveillance testified that he had seen him there on January 10, 1985, and that on January 11, Schoenhoff had deposited $10,000 in cash at a local branch bank.

  9. Bear says:

    I was curious about this Kingpin Act, so I did a little research, reading the act and the regulations to carry it out.

    Just as I suspected, there’s good news for Johnny Z and his group. The USA believes in due process and fair treatment, so they have not one but TWO procedures the Zabanehs can use to demonstrate to the Office of Foreign Assets Control that freezing the assets is a mistake. All he has to do is show them the evidence of his innocence, and the sanctions can be lifted, simple as that.

    I’m sure it’s nothing more than a misunderstanding, and he can clear it up if he tries. I’m waiting to see how that works out for him.

  10. HALLELUJIAH! says:

    “Fifty-six year old John Zabaneh, a prominent figure in the banana industry, has been labeled by the U.S. government as a drug lord living in Belize.”

    One word: DUH.

  11. Bear says:

    USJUSTICE, I read the legal opinion about Schoenhoff at the link you provided. Thanks for that.

    It wasn’t a little one-time deal he was CONVICTED for, but a long conspiracy with a sentence of 30 YEARS in U.S. federal prison, followed by 3 years supervision. And that was after TWO appeals, so he had his day in court. That was in 1990.

    So here is a proven drug trafficker, well-known to DEA, working and running the show here in Belize for Johnny Z / Mayan King, yet he is not named in the current U.S. investigation or sanctions. Could it be he has rolled over on his employer to escape another term in US prison? He might have some ‘splainin’ to do!

    I’m going to stay tuned to this soap opera.

  12. Louisville,Ky says:

    For those of you who don’t know, Johnny Zabaneh, by the way, is the original JZ. Hauled bananas and citrus for him back in the day. He even sponsored the JZ cruisers basketball team that I coached in the late 80s and early 90s.
    While I refuse to put my head on the block for him, I won’t be in a hurry to tar and feather him either, as I am only too aware of the stench of being branded as a drug dealer as I struggled to maintain my equipments, working legitimately for him in the citrus and banana industries.
    Apparently the DEA knows things that I don’t. So. Time will tell……………..,

  13. shy says:

    Bout bloody time they put them pan blast. I always find it sick and disgusting when they arrest the small south side youths weh live ina old lee bruk up house and call them drug dealer while the real ones ina big mansions are free to walk the streets.

  14. MzPutToRight says:

    All you hungry belly haters can continue to do what you do best…TALK and TALK till unu mouth stink…people are busy with their daily lives, stress and work load and here you all are sitting on our stinking !*!@# and @*$$#$ bringing down holy hell about people you know NOTHING about. This is why this country is like this…too much bad mind and jealousy. Bet half of you haters are sitting on someone’s step or in the park, don’t even have a job to pay for your own internet… GET REAL

  15. dor says:

    to all the bad wishers nothing will become of this so your bad mind will be for nuttin, obviously america doesn’t have sufficient evidence or they would have already been in process for the exradition of these indivduals, continue thinking america is always right, they don’t give a !—% if they are putting a dent in belize economy if they try to prevent bussiness that is beneficial to belize from happening, i suggest all you crabs shut unu traps and wait and see how nuttin will become of this, and it would be good you know why? i’m a belizean living in belize and i care about our economy more than having bad mind for pople who is successful in running their bussiness. obviously you don’y know history either or you would know american wasn’t built up on being righteous,ask uncle sam.

  16. BubbaWubba says:

    Yeah, sounds like he is the kingpin of the Banana Republic…
    It’s about time these guys realize that they can and will be held accountable for getting rich off fueling terrible drug addictions. The DEA wouldn’t have initiated these actions if they didn’t have proof. It’s disgusting what people like the Zabaneh’s are doing and especially because it is encouraging a climate of no retribution, making the country very unsafe and ruining the reputation of Belize.

  17. dalmata says:

    mek we show zabaneh family we support as belizeans caz even if deh ina drugs we as belizeans shuda support 1 ah we own an pan top atleast deh duh biznizes wth di money an create jobs unlike otha geechy belizean biznizpeople weh nuh even want invest……….i dah nuh wah zabaneh puppet but this family rlly dwn2earth from di rest ah rich people weh nuh even come close ina di money weh zabaneh have barry bowen san cas none ah dem cant mess wth di money deh zabaneh family have or invest ova di yrs

  18. drose flowers says:

    WHAT A JOKE!!!!!

  19. MzPutToRight says:

    Laad have mercy, I neva know Belize have so much pathetic people, ah shame ah unu…listen to the ridiculous crap people like BubbaWubba and Drose Flowers are spewing…Nothing more poisonous than unu mouth and bad mind. Somebody need fi taint wa ….. and shove ina unu mouth!!!!!!!!!!!

You must be logged in to post a comment Login