HomeNewsBrief$7 Mn Seizure Highlights Panama's Continuing Role as Money Laundering Hub
BRIEF

$7 Mn Seizure Highlights Panama's Continuing Role as Money Laundering Hub

HONDURAS / 14 JAN 2014 BY MARGUERITE CAWLEY EN

The seizure of nearly $7.2 million in cash from three Hondurans by Panamanian authorities highlights both Panama's role as a regional money laundering hub and Honduras' growing involvement in the transnational drug trade.

The money, which came in denominations of $20 and $100 bills, was found in eight suitcases that the Hondurans attempted to take through Tocumen airport in Panama City on January 11, reported AFP. According to police, the cash seizure was the biggest in 15 years.

Panamanian authorities said the cash was being moved for a "powerful Mexican drug cartel," but they did not identify which one.

Meanwhile, Honduras' Public Ministry has ordered an investigation into how airport authorities, the National Special Investigation Services Unit (DNSEI) and the Anti-Narcotics Directorate (DLCN) all failed to detect the cash shipment, despite modern x-ray equipment installed in the Toncontin airport in Tegucigalpa, reported La Prensa. Five airport employees and one border police agent have been detained in the case, reported La Tribuna.

Humberto Palacios Moya, director of Honduras' Administrative Office of Seized Goods (OABI) expressed skepticism over official actions in the case, stating: "How can millions of dollars come through in eight suitcases? What happened is that the authorities are turning a blind eye."

The three Hondurans will be kept in jail in Panama while authorities investigate.

InSight Crime Analysis

Panama, often described as "at the mouth of the funnel" of the cocaine trade, has long been a money laundering hub and a strategic meeting point for foreign drug traffickers. Last year, officials also identified four major Mexican cartels with a presence in the country. The movement of dirty money into Panama from places like Honduras and Guatemala is a low risk activity for major figures in cartels because -- as in the present case -- it is only the money runners likely to be captured if something goes wrong.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Money Laundering

The fact that the transporters in this case came from Honduras also highlights the growing role of this violence-ridden nation in the transnational drug trade, and the official corruption that has allowed this to happen with relative impunity.

In the political and economic chaos that followed the country's 2009 coup, Honduras became a major transit hub for northern-bound cocaine flights. It has also seen an increasingly established presence of transnational criminal groups such as the Sinaloa Cartel and the Zetas, and the evolution of domestic groups such as the Cachiros, a major US-targeted transit group with connections to the country's economic elite that became a bridge between Mexican and Colombian cartels.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

EL SALVADOR / 19 AUG 2015

There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that the militarization of domestic security is bad for human rights and…

CACHIROS / 28 FEB 2017

Authorities in Honduras have seized properties belonging to a major drug trafficking clan, a move that in the past has…

HONDURAS / 30 MAR 2012

Four peasant farmers were killed and eleven wounded in an ambush in the Bajo Aguan region in northeastern Honduras, highlighting…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution Met With Uproar

6 MAY 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime launched its latest investigation, Venezuela’s Cocaine Revolution¸ accompanied by a virtual panel on its findings. The takeaways from this three-year effort, including the fact that Venezuela…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…