HomeNewsBriefPanama Security Officials Implicated in International Arms Trafficking Network
BRIEF

Panama Security Officials Implicated in International Arms Trafficking Network

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 15 OCT 2018 BY PARKER ASMANN EN

Authorities in Panama are asking the United States for assistance in investigating an international arms trafficking network that may have included the participation of former security officials, raising questions about the country’s role in the regional arms trafficking trade.

Prosecutors in Panama have asked for two US judicial assistants to participate in an international arms trafficking investigation that implicates several former officials from the Central American nation’s Public Security Directorate (Dirección Institucional de Asuntos de Seguridad Pública - DIASP), La Prensa reported October 12.

Authorities are investigating nine individuals, eight of whom are former DIASP officials, for their alleged role in importing 100 weapons into Panama after they were purchased in the United States, according to a number of press releases from the Attorney General’s Office.

The investigation was recently extended six months to “analyze” whether or not the head of the DIASP, Ovidio Fuentes, was also involved in the network, La Prensa reported. Fuentes has been temporarily suspended from the DIASP while the investigation continues.

SEE ALSO: Panama News and Profiles

So far, prosecutors have been able to recover at least 40 of the weapons imported into Panama from the United States, including an AR-15 assault rifle and various grenades, according to La Prensa. The network reportedly purchased the weapons for between $149 and $540 each in the United States before they were sold to unidentified local merchants in Panama at a marked up value between $5,500 and $7,500.

Prosecutors allege the weapons were purchased between 2016 and 2017. However, the weapons reportedly had permits listed for 2012, suggesting that this information was altered by DIASP officials, who are responsible for providing the proper permits and certifications for imported firearms, according to a 2012 firearms law. The 2012 law also says that only authorized security personnel can import firearms into Panama.

InSight Crime Analysis

The recent arms trafficking investigation in Panama raises more questions than answers. The country has long been known as a money laundering haven that criminal groups throughout the region, including Colombia’s notorious Medellín Cartel, have used to wash billions in criminal proceeds, rather than a final destination for illegally trafficked firearms.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Arms Trafficking

Guns, especially from the United States, remain a driving force behind violence in Latin America. But Panama consistently has one of the region’s lowest homicide rates, suggesting that the firearms imported into the country may have been moving on to another country.

Indeed, Central America has long been a key source and transit region for illegal firearms moving to countries in South America, such as Colombia, according to a 2006 report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on arms trafficking in Colombia. In particular, the UNODC found that Panama acts as the "principal port of entry" for illicit firearms from the United States and Central America that are traveling into the Andean nation due to its free port status and geographically strategic location bordering Colombia.

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

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 23 AUG 2017

Honduras does not produce weapons, but weapons are trafficked into the country in numerous ways.

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 13 NOV 2012

US and Colombian police say that they have uncovered evidence of two Florida-based networks which smuggled arms into…

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 23 AUG 2016

Mexico's foreign minister has blamed lax US gun control laws for the flood of illegal weapons into the country, 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…