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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

How Organized Crime Profits from Migrant Flow Across Colombia's Darién Gap

NEWS / 24 NOV 2022

Migrants crossing the Darién Gap between Colombia and Panama face extortion, rape, violence, and being forced to carry drugs.

Panama Lending Flag to Most Destructive Fishing Ships

INVESTIGATIONS / 27 JUL 2022

When the Chinese fishing fleet was discovered near Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, its vessels were not all flagged to China. Some flew Panama’s flag.

Panama Struggles to Fight Timber Trafficking in Forests and Ports

NEWS / 4 APR 2022

A string of seizures highlights Panama's important role in international timber trafficking. The country’s strategic position and the presence of valuable exotic species make the country a hotspot for environmental…

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 / 15 FEB 2022

The leader of Panama’s largest drug trafficking group has been arrested in Costa Rica and is set to be extradited to the United States, although this is unlikely to heavily…

COCAINE / 3 FEB 2022

Central American countries seized a record amount of drugs last year, underscoring how the region has become one of the top suppliers of cocaine not only to the United States…

ARGENTINA / 1 FEB 2022

In 2021, most countries in Latin America and the Caribbean experienced a marked increase in murders. Resurgent violence was to be expected after some of the world’s strictest COVID-19 lockdowns…

ELITES AND CRIME / 16 DEC 2021

Two sons of former Panama President Ricardo Martinelli have pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the United States related to the sweeping Odebrecht corruption scandal…

BRAZIL / 15 DEC 2021

A recent study of credit card cloning around the world revealed some startling disparities in the risks customers face across Latin America and the price of buying this stolen information.

COLOMBIA / 6 DEC 2021

A series of arrests have revealed that one of Colombia's dominant criminal groups has a strong foothold in Panama, including the support of corrupt officials and security forces.

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