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Panama seizes record €9 million of drug money

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By AFP
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Panama seizes record €9 million of drug money
Copyright  AFP

Authorities in Panama have seized what they call "a record haul of drug money".

Over US$10 million ( just under €9 million), were found in cash in a residential house in Nueva Providencia in the Caribbean province of Colon on Wednesday. The sum is more than the national authorities there have ever seized from a criminal gang.

According to the prosecutor's office, it took investigators more than 12 hours to add up all the money using a dozen machines. Several even failed due to the strain.

The hard cash was found in three different hidden locations in the house during a crackdown on gangs linked to neighbouring Colombia's embattled 'Gulf Clan' (Clan del Golfo). 10 firearms and 38 luxury vehicles belonging to the group were also seized.

At a press conference on Thursday, Panama's attorney general, Javier Carabello, said the sum represented "a strong and hard blow" to the group, "hitting it exactly where it hurts most."

'Operation Fisher'

The bust resulted in the arrest of 57 people who are all suspected of working with the cartel. They are all accused of receiving large quantities of drugs from Colombia and hiding it before sending it on to the United States via Central America. Five of the suspects are police officers.

The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) also took part in the operation which began in February 2020.

'Gulf Clan'

Clan del Golfo is also known as Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia. It was created in 2006 after paramilitaries from the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) demobilised. It is now considered the biggest and most powerful criminal organisation in Colombia.

Colombia is the world's largest exporter of cocaine and the USA is the main consumer. The infamous cartel controlled around a third of Colombia's production of the drug, until it was recently weakened by the capture of its leader, Darío Antonio Úsuga, 'Otoniel', and dozens of other members last month. The clan's network reaches 28 countries and it operates in alliance with Mexican mafias.

'Otoniel' was caught in Colombia and could face extradition to the USA.