HomeNewsBriefPanama Business Family Blacklisted by US Treasury
BRIEF

Panama Business Family Blacklisted by US Treasury

ELITES AND CRIME / 6 MAY 2016 BY SAM TABORY EN

The US Treasury Department has designated a powerful Panama-based business family for heading an international money laundering network connected to drug trafficking, drawing renewed scrutiny on Panama as a hub for illicit profits. 

On May 5, the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) blacklisted the Waked Money Laundering Organization (MLO) and its presumed leaders, Abdul Mohamed Waked Fares and Nidal Ahmed Waked Hatum, naming them "Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers." Six associates of the Waked's and 68 companies thought to be part of their network were also targeted.

A day before the Treasury Department announced the Waked MLO designation, Nidal Waked was detained in Colombia during a joint operation between Colombian security forces and the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on charges of money laundering and bank fraud, reported El Espectador. The DEA described Nidal as "one of the world's most significant drug money launderers and criminal facilitators." He is expected to be extradited to the US to face charges in the Federal District Court of Southern Florida. 

The Treasury's designation outlines an intricate network of international companies owned by or associated with the Waked's that were used to launder illicit drug profits, often relying on false commercial invoicing and bulk cash smuggling. The widely recognizable international duty free outfit La Riviera, which has branches at airports in more than 14 countries across Latin America, is among the businesses that have been implicated in the network.

Additionally, Panama's prominent Balboa Bank & Trust and multiple luxury shopping mall developments in Panama City are other Waked business holdings purportedly used in the laundering scheme. On May 5, Panama's superintendent of banks announced his agency would be taking control of the bank. 

There has been no mention yet of what drug trafficking organizations the Waked MLO might have been working for.

Abdul Mohamed Waked holds Panamanian, Colombian, and Lebanese citizenship. Nidal Waked holds Panamanian, Colombian, and Spanish citizenship, according to La Prensa. In a statement issued through their attorneys, both men have denied wrongdoing and say they are cooperating fully with authorities.

InSight Crime Analysis 

The exposure of the Waked network comes shortly after the massive leak of confidential files from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, dubbed the Panama Papers, drew unprecedented international attention to Panama as a hub for suspect financial dealings. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Money Laundering 

The designations announced by the Treasury Department this week will likely fuel calls for Panama to reform its banking system first sparked by the Panama Papers leak in April. Yet the extent and breadth of the Waked network suggests US authorities have been investigating the Waked family for months, predating the document leak and ensuing international outcry. 

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

COLOMBIA / 22 DEC 2021

Welcome to InSight Crime’s Criminal  GameChangers 2021, where we highlight the most important trends in organized crime in the Americas over the course…

COLOMBIA / 17 JUN 2021

A criminal group in Colombia is turning dirty money into adulterated gold, in the latest addition to a long list…

ELITES AND CRIME / 23 OCT 2020

There is one element that has proven vital to the operational success of international drug trafficking organizations the world over,…

About InSight Crime

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Extensive Coverage of our Chronicles of a Cartel Bodyguard

23 SEP 2022

Our recent investigation, A Cartel Bodyguard in Mexico’s 'Hot Land', has received extensive media coverage.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime, American University Host Illegal Fishing Panel

19 SEP 2022

InSight Crime and the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University discussed the findings of a joint investigation on IUU fishing at a September 9 conference.

THE ORGANIZATION

Impact on the Media Landscape

9 SEP 2022

InSight Crime’s first investigation on the Dominican Republic made an immediate impact on the Dominican media landscape, with major news outlets republishing and reprinting our findings, including in …

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Sharpens Its Skills

2 SEP 2022

Last week, the InSight Crime team gathered for our annual retreat in Colombia, where we discussed our vision and strategy for the next 12 months.  During the week, we also learned how to…

THE ORGANIZATION

Colombia’s Fragile Path to Peace Begins to Take Shape

26 AUG 2022

InSight Crime is charting the progress of President Gustavo Petro’s agenda as he looks to revolutionize Colombia’s security policy, opening dialogue with guerrillas, reforming the military and police, and…