HomeNewsBriefNicaragua Police Seizing Record Drug Money While Cocaine Seizures Fall
BRIEF

Nicaragua Police Seizing Record Drug Money While Cocaine Seizures Fall

NICARAGUA / 20 JUL 2020 BY PARKER ASMANN EN

Nicaragua’s National Police is seizing large amounts of drug money while confiscating less cocaine compared to years past, calling into question how the struggling force is finding the money and where it is going after being recovered.

Between 2017 and the end of June 2020, Nicaragua’s police force seized $38 million in drug money, most often after capturing drivers traveling with large sums of cash, caretakers looking after farms or in cases where the money had been "abandoned," according to a July investigation from the local news organizations Artículo 66 and Expediente Público.

Through the first six months of this year, the report found that authorities had confiscated almost $10.5 million in 16 operations.

Authorities seem to be growing progressively more efficient. In 2017, the police reportedly netted a little less than $6 million in 15 operations. In 2019, the amount of money seized in 19 operations doubled, according to Artículo 66, jumping to just over $12 million, even as the country still reeled from a nationwide political crisis that took off in mid-2018.

SEE ALSO: Nicaragua News and Profile

Despite dispatching most officers to the country’s main cities to deal with the crisis, the major drug money seizures have taken place in border regions along Nicaragua’s Pacific coast with less of a police presence, the investigation stated.

Most recently, the police have been dogged by controversy. The US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned the entire force in March for its role in “serious human rights abuses” related to the recent unrest, including “using live ammunition against peaceful protesters and participating in death squads, as well as carrying out extrajudicial killings, disappearances, and kidnappings.”

InSight Crime Analysis

By the end of 2018, the reputation of Nicaragua’s police force had taken a nosedive. It went from being a relatively well-trusted law enforcement unit to a political tool of repression deployed by President Daniel Ortega to squash dissent and crack down on those protesting his government.

While the unrest has calmed down, the fact that officers are finding so much alleged drug money is curious.

Firstly, cocaine seizures in the country are down considerably. The police seized around just 16 metric tons of the drug between 2017 and 2019, according to police data cited by Artículo 66. A decade earlier, between 2007 and 2009, about 36 metric tons of cocaine were seized.

SEE ALSO: Nicaragua Government’s Alleged Drug Trade Ties Deepen with Arrest

Nicaragua has in the past played a crucial transshipment role for US-bound cocaine loads. This hasn’t been the case more recently. Other Central American nations like Honduras and Costa Rica have acted as the preferred launchpads for cocaine en route to US and European consumers. It’s not clear why the amount of drug money seized has shot up so much when cocaine seizures are a fraction of what they used to be.

Nonetheless, the money continues to pile up. In late June, almost $5 million was seized in San Lorenzo municipality east of the capital Managua. The following week, police detained a Honduran national with $450,000 of alleged drug proceeds that were confiscated.

Where all of this money has gone as the cash-strapped force adjusts to US sanctions also remains a mystery. Nicaragua is alleged to be home to many vast corruption and money laundering networks, some of which have implicated President Ortega himself.

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

MEXICO / 17 JUN 2014

Nearly 90 percent of Mexico's citizens view the country's police as corrupt, according to a new survey that highlights the…

MEXICO / 28 AUG 2018

Mexico’s President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador has used his transition period before taking office in December to launch a series…

ENVIRONMENTAL CRIME / 3 OCT 2011

Honduran authorities stopped two men accused of trying to smuggle 118 exotic parakeets from Nicaragua to El Salvador, concealed in…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Who Are Memo Fantasma and Sergio Roberto de Carvalho?

24 JUN 2022

Inside the criminal career of Memo Fantasma  In March 2020, InSight Crime revealed the identity and whereabouts of Memo Fantasma, a paramilitary commander and drug trafficker living in…

THE ORGANIZATION

Environmental and Academic Praise

17 JUN 2022

InSight Crime’s six-part series on the plunder of the Peruvian Amazon continues to inform the debate on environmental security in the region. Our Environmental Crimes Project Manager, María Fernanda Ramírez,…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Series on Plunder of Peru’s Amazon Makes Headlines

10 JUN 2022

Since launching on June 2, InSight Crime’s six-part series on environmental crime in Peru’s Amazon has been well-received. Detailing the shocking impunity enjoyed by those plundering the rainforest, the investigation…

THE ORGANIZATION

Duarte’s Death Makes Waves

3 JUN 2022

The announcement of the death of Gentil Duarte, one of the top dissident commanders of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continues to reverberate in Venezuela and Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Cattle Trafficking Acclaim, Investigation into Peru’s Amazon 

27 MAY 2022

On May 18, InSight Crime launched its most recent investigation into cattle trafficking between Central America and Mexico. It showed precisely how beef, illicitly produced in Honduras, Guatemala…