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Panama

Panama's location connecting Central and South America has made it a key transit point for illicit trade, as well as a refuge and negotiating area for criminal organizations. Its favorable economy and the booming contraband market of the Colón Free Zone (CFZ) have long attracted international money launderers.

Latest News

Contraband Chinese Cigarettes Take Latin America by Storm

NEWS / 11 OCT 2021

Contraband Chinese cigarettes are pouring into Latin America, infiltrating old smuggling routes and threatening longstanding criminal empires.

Panama Unveils Extent of Official Participation in Drug Trafficking

NEWS / 9 SEP 2021

As Panama struggles to contain an ever-growing flow of cocaine, a recent operation has revealed the extent to which officials are involved in facilitating the drug trade.

Pablo Escobar

COLOMBIA / 30 AUG 2021

Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria was the pioneer in industrial-scale cocaine trafficking.

Panama Profile

Criminal Actors

Armed Groups

As the gateway between Central and South America, Panama has been used by powerful criminal groups – from Colombian guerillas to Mexican cartels – as a refuge and staging area. The country is also home to two local gang networks: Calor Calor and Bagdad. Gang conflicts over street-level crimes are blamed for much of the violence in Panama City and across the canal in West Panama province. Trafficking groups are known to contract the gangs to carry out killings and drug robberies, and to secure cocaine shipments.

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News

BAGDAD / 10 JUN 2021

Panama’s northern province of Colón, sitting at the Atlantic entrance to the Panama Canal, is seeing a truly staggering increase in drug seizures, raising questions about its role in the…

ARGENTINA / 7 MAY 2021

The cat-and-mouse game of evading law enforcement was taken literally by drug smugglers recently in Panama, who hid cocaine on a feline and sent it into a prison.

BAGDAD / 2021-05-05

Bagdad, along with its rival Calor Calor, is one of Panama’s two main gang federations, consisting of 30-40 smaller gangs that work together to fulfill drug transportation for transnational organized…

BAGDAD / 26 APR 2021

US counterdrug agents and authorities in Panama have recently targeted one of the country's largest gangs, revealing its ability to coordinate drug shipments northward. But the group, known as Bagdad,…

COCAINE / 13 APR 2021

The dismantling of a Costa Rican drug gang that worked with agents in an elite investigative unit to steal cocaine shipments from rival traffickers is yet another sign of the…

AUC / 9 FEB 2021

Operation ‘Tiburón Galloway’ began as a local investigation by prosecutors in the Italian region of Calabria in 2001, but quickly snowballed into a multinational, multiagency investigation.

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