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Top Honduran anti-money laundering official shot dead

MYT 11:55:02 PM

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - A leading anti-money laundering official was shot dead late on Thursday in Honduras, which is struggling to cope with violent Mexican drug cartels.

Orlen Chavez, head of the anti-money laundering unit in the public prosecutor's office, was shot in his car in the capital Tegucigalpa by unidentified gunmen believed to have been riding motorcycles, the office said. He died shortly afterwards in hospital.

"We don't know where this attack came from, but he had important responsibilities in the fight against money laundering in the country, especially by drug traffickers," said Carlos Vallecillo, a spokesman for the public prosecutor's office.

Violence linked to organized crime has escalated in the Central American country in recent years partly due to the presence of Mexican drug gangs who use Honduras as a transit point for contraband.

In December 2009, the head of the government's drug control office was shot dead by suspected cartel hitmen in Tegucigalpa.

Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world, according to the United Nations.

(Reporting by Gustavo Palencia; Editing by Pravin Char)

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