Panama Breaks Up Ring That Smuggled People Into U.S., Europe
By Dialogo July 15, 2009Around 20 people, including four government employees, have been arrested in Panama for allegedly belonging to a ring that smuggled Dominicans into the United States and Europe using false Panamanian passports, prosecutors said. The officials arrested Monday worked for the Electoral Tribunal, the Passport Administration, the Attorney General's Office and the National Police's judicial investigations unit, the head of the AG's office's organized crime unit, Jose Ayu Prado, said. The ring provided Panamanian national identification cards to foreigners, who used the documents to obtain Panamanian passports and visas to enter the United States and Europe, Ayu Prado said. Most of those arrested are Panamanians, but two Dominicans and two Colombians were also detained, the official said, adding that the ring charged around $5,000 for the false documents. The arrests were made after several searches conducted in Colon, a city north of the capital, and at various locations in Panama City. The suspects face corruption, criminal conspiracy and people trafficking charges that carry prison sentences of 10 to 15 years if they are convicted. Money laundering and perjury charges may also be filed against the suspects, Ayu Prado said, adding that the ring's leader was a Panamanian but not a government employee.