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Operation in Panama Captures 56 People Involved with Colombian Drug Trafficking Group  

Operation in Panama Captures 56 People Involved with Colombian Drug Trafficking Group   

By Andréa Barretto /Diálogo
December 23, 2021

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Panamanian authorities captured 56 people on charges of associating with the Clan del Golfo international criminal network, one of Colombia’s leading narcotrafficking organizations. According to the DW news site, the Clan del Golfo has a presence in 28 countries, with Panama as a gateway for Central American narcotrafficking.

Among those detained are Panamanians and foreigners who, according to the Panamanian Office of the Attorney General, are responsible for “receiving and hiding large quantities of drugs from Colombia, which enter the national territory by speedboat along the Atlantic coast.” The arrests occurred between late November and early December 2021 as a result of Operation Fisher. Investigations began in February 2020.

The dismantled group, which name was not released, was a complex structure that comprised several sectors, including the purchase of weapons, creation of shell companies, and money laundering through the acquisition of real estate and luxury cars. Investigations also revealed the participation of nine Panamanian government employees.

The complex structure of the criminal group involved fishermen and Panamanian government officials, among others. (Photo: Panamanian Office of the Attorney General)

In one case, a Social Security Administration employee gave uniforms from the institution to two criminals, a Honduran and a Nicaraguan, to facilitate their entry into the country. Prosecutor Joseph Díaz brought this information to light during the hearings of the detained group.

Fishermen, essential to trafficking activities, used speedboats to transport the drugs From the city of Colón, on the Caribbean entrance to the Panama Canal, to the Bocas Del Toro province in northern Panama. The objective was to move the drugs from Colombia to its final destination, the United States.

Investigations point to Jorge Luis General, known as El General, as the leader of the Panamanian criminal group. He reportedly replaced Manuel Rentería Lemus, extradited to the United States in March 2020 after being arrested in a police operation. El General, however, remains at large.

Since the beginning of Operation Fisher, 38 vehicles, four rifles, several machine guns, and 600 rounds of ammunition, as well as 11 residences and $10 million in cash hidden in a beach house in Colón, owned by El General, have been seized, the Panamanian Office of the Attorney General indicated.

The steps that led to the capture of the suspects included the participation of agents from the Office of the Attorney General and the Panamanian National Police, with information from Colombian intelligence. The operation also received the support of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which collaborated with resources and provided training in investigative techniques, the Panamanian newspaper Prensa reported.