Security at Tocumen Airport found $7.2 million in cash hidden in eight separate suitcases, according to Panamanian police. Three men are caught moving the suitcases from Toncontin Airport in Honduras for a powerful cartel, but Honduran police haven’t said which one.
Investigators say the cash was mostly in U.S. $100 bills. It’s a case that highlights the regional impacts of the drug trade, and now Honduran investigators are trying to figure out how the suitcases slipped by airport authorities, drug police and special investigators at the Toncontin airport in Tegucigalpa.
Honduran police have said that authorities have suspended dozens of officers during the course of the investigation.
The drug money was found during a luggage check in the presence of the owners, when inspectors found a second compartment in the inner part of the bag hidden by a fake bottom, that concealed bundles of cash in $100 bills.
Panamanian police, who described the suitcase stash as their largest seizure in years, arrested three Honduran nationals at Tocumen International Airport.
Chief drug prosecutor Javier Caraballo caught the smugglers using gathered intelligence that said the drug money would enter Panama through Tocumen Airport.
Panama is known as a money-laundering hub for drug cartels in Latin America.
Recent changes in international banking laws in Panama have also made the country a serious location for foreign nationals attempting to hide their money for tax purposes, making it a target for money laundering and cash smuggling.