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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

The Italian Mafia and the Move Upstream

INVESTIGACIONES / 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.

Spain: The European Base for Latin American Organized Crime

INVESTIGACIONES / 9 FEB 2021

On April 30, 1984, the Mercedes taking Colombian Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara Bonilla home after work was strafed with machine gun fire.

GameChangers 2020: The Resurgence of the Central American Cocaine Highway

ANALYSIS / 28 DEC 2020

A rush of drug plane traffic from South America, coupled with traffickers smuggling large cocaine shipments after coronavirus border restrictions eased, led to a surge in narcotics transiting Central America…

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 / 26 NOV 2020

A burst of attempted contraband smuggling into Panama’s largest prison complex has challenged governments claims about the success of recent reforms in bolstering security within the country’s penitentiaries, as well…

CONTRABAND / 3 NOV 2020

A sizeable seizure of adulterated rum shipped to Honduras from Europe reveals the extent to which black markets for alcohol in Latin America have expanded in response to limits on…

COCAINE / 25 SEP 2020

Authorities in Panama’s northwestern province of Bocas del Toro have intercepted a string of vessels carrying large amounts of cocaine, a sign that traffickers are using the archipelago as…

ELITES AND CRIME / 3 JUL 2020

The indictment of two former Panama presidents may mark a watershed development for the Central American nation's fight against corruption after years of slow-moving judicial proceedings.

BAGDAD / 8 JUN 2020

Homicides in western Panama have surged in a cycle of revenge killings, as one of the country's largest gangs struggles to maintain power and control over increasing drug flows.

COLOMBIA / 24 APR 2020

US authorities alleged Nidal Waked and other members of his powerful and well-connected family in Panama were among “the world’s most significant drug money launderers and criminal facilitators,” with clients…

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