HomeNewsBriefArrest of Panama Drug Boss Shows Gangs' International Ambitions
BRIEF

Arrest of Panama Drug Boss Shows Gangs' International Ambitions

COLOMBIA / 8 SEP 2016 BY MIMI YAGOUB EN

A binational operation has reportedly disbanded one of the most wanted criminal organizations in Panama, exposing an intricate drug trafficking network that suggests local gangs could be making the leap into transnational organized crime.

On September 6, Panamanian authorities and Colombian police captured one of the most wanted men in Panama, Héctor Moisés Murillo Barberena, who was known by various aliases including "Moi," "El Pulpo," and "El Viejo."

statement by Colombia's National Police said the 40-year-old was the leader of the gang Kill the Nasty, and had close ties to top figures in the Colombian criminal organization the Urabeños including Dairo Antonio Úsuga, alias "Otoniel," Roberto Vargas Gutiérrez, alias "Gavilán," and Carlos Antonio Moreno Tuberquia, alias "Nicolas."

According to El Tiempo, authorities established that the Urabeños supplied cocaine to Kill the Nasty by shipping it from Colombia's Pacific coast to Panama. Kill the Nasty would then coordinate with Mexican organizations to move the drugs out of the Central American country, the news outlet reported.

SEE ALSO:  Urabeños News and Profile

During an eight month investigation code-named "Operation Omega," 10 cocaine shipments were intercepted in Panama, totaling over 4 metric tons. Investigators found that illicit cargo entering Panama would be transported to the ports of Balboa, Manzanillo, Colón and Cristóbal, where it was then smuggled to Mexico, the United States and Spain.

Murillo was arrested along with 18 other suspected members of the drug trafficking network. Among those arrested were suspects identified by the aliases "Jeimar" and "Betty" -- Colombian nationals whom the police said provided cocaine to Murillo's organization.

Two Indian citizens were also arrested for allegedly laundering Kill the Nasty's illicit earnings, while a Panamanian identified as "M.M." was accused of bribing authorities to evade controls.

Colombian authorities also reported confiscating two firearms, 14 properties and 150 cars. El Tiempo reported that the group used a car dealership as a front company.

Murillo had previously been detained in Panama in February 2012 for the killing of a teacher during a gang shootout. However, he was released in June 2015 after his detention was declared invalid in a court ruling described as suspcious by Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela.

In 2014, local media reports stated that Kill the Nasty had been dismantled following the capture of the gang's alleged leader Jorge Zurita, alias "Pibe." At the time, authorities said the group was carrying out drug trafficking activities in collaboration with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC) guerrilla organization.

InSight Crime Analysis

Murillo's arrest illustrates several aspects of the evolution of local criminal dynamics in Panama. Over the past few years, the country's street gangs, known as "pandillas," have been consolidating into two main rival blocs: "Bagdad" and "Calor Calor." Kill the Nasty is one of a number gangs operating in Panama, and some reports suggest it is a faction of Calor Calor.

SEE ALSO:  Calor Calor Profile

The description of Murillo's criminal network appears to confirm previous reports suggesting that Panamanian criminals are running so-called "oficinas de cobro," or collection offices. These organizations offer services such as protection of drug routes and contract killings for other criminal groups, and act as a bridge between Colombian criminal organizations like the Urabeños and traffickers who move drugs to subsequent destinations, according to a 2014 report (pdf) from the National Criminal Statistics System (Sistema Nacional Integrado de Estadísticas Criminales - SIEC) of Panama's Public Security Ministry.

However, the extensive network uncovered by Operation Omega raises the question of whether Panamanian groups continue to act merely as service providers for Colombian and Mexican criminal organizations, or whether they have begun to set up their own transnational trafficking operations.

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 / 28 SEP 2018

Authorities in the United States dismantled a transnational drug trafficking organization that utilized the US Postal Service to purchase and…

COLOMBIA / 30 DEC 2010

Authorities have seized 6.4 tons of drugs in Colombia's Pacific port of Buenaventura, the largest seizure of 2010. Police stated…

COLOMBIA / 28 FEB 2014

The children of Cali Cartel founders the Rodriguez Orejeula brothers are facing money laundering charges in Colombia in another reminder…

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…