​Panama Seizes $7M In Drug Money By 3 Men​​

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January 14, 2021
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Panama authorities make arrest after the country seizes $7M in drug money found hidden in eight suitcases. The luggage was brought into Panama City’s international airport by three Honduran men.

Chief drug prosecutor Javier Caraballo said Monday that authorities found the money after getting intelligence that suspected drug money would enter Panama through Tocumen Airport.

A police statement says the three men flew in from the Honduras capital of Tegucigalpa and had the suitcases with them when they were detained. Authorities say officers found bundles of $100 bills in hidden compartments inside the suitcases.

Panama is a known money-laundering hub for drug cartels in Latin America.

Authorities say at least four Mexican drug trafficking organizations are operating in Panama and have been linked to several murders.

Bureau of Prisons and intelligence reports “confirm the presence … of the Los Zetas, Beltran Leyva, Sinaloa and Juarez” cartels, which “use Panama as a base of operations for transporting cocaine into Mexico and the United States.”.

“(Of) the nearly 2,500 foreigners currently detained in Panama, between 90 and 100 are Mexicans, all in drug cases and linked to narcocartels,” a source said.

Panamanian authorities have struck some blows at Mexican cartels in recent years, such as the 2007 seizure of 19.5 tons of cocaine from a Sinaloa cartel network dismantled with U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration assistance.

Four members of the violent Los Zetas cartel were arrested when they tried to enter Panama from Costa Rica with a shipment of cocaine packed into three vehicles in 2009, while four suspected Juarez cartel members were detained in 2010 when they attempted to smuggle drugs in suitcases with false bottoms.

Prosecutors are investigating murders with “an elevated degree of violence that appear to have been committed by Colombian or Mexican hitmen, or by Panamanian killers who copy the methods of these individuals.”