Officials held as Panama raids suspected arms trafficking network
Panama City, Jul 14 (efe-epa).- Authorities in Panama Tuesday dismantled an organization allegedly dedicated to arms trafficking, arrested 19 people, including officials and former high-ranking security officers, and recovered 34 weapons from a batch of 86 under investigation.
The arrests and the recovery of the weapons occurred in 28 raids across the capital, West Panama and in the central province of Veraguas, as part of the so-called “Operation Fury” executed by the Prosecution Against Organized Crime (Fiscalía Contra el Crimen Organizado) led by prosecutor Emeldo Márquez.
National Police director Jorge Miranda said that as a result of the raids, 34 firearms were recovered, 24 of them related to the case, three without legal possession, seven with permission, and 2,342 ammunitions of various calibers.
Prosecutor Márquez indicated that this investigation, which began in 2019, is registered under crimes against Collective Security in the illicit firearms trafficking category.
Both the prosecutor and the head of the Police Investigation Directorate, Carlos Delgado, said that among the detainees are former high-ranking security force officers, which they did not identify, as well as civilians and officials.
Delgado said it had been verified that they were weapons of war “precisely because of their caliber” since their entry into Panama was registered.
He said that among the recovered weapons were 13 war rifles, one rifle, 16 pistols and four shotguns, a haul that will increase with requisitions that will continue to be carried out.
The weapons were imported into Panama by a company hired by the State to be used by security forces and were later put into the hands of individuals and senior security officials in the country, according to a press conference.
Local media and social networks reported that among the places raided was the residence of former head of the National Security Council (NSC) Rolando López, in Veraguas. López was the director of the NSC during the government of Juan Carlos Varela (2014-2019).
The residence of Bella Vista capital representative Ricardo Domínguez, of the opposition Partido Panameñista, was also reported to have been raided.
Local media also said that former directors of the National Police, Omar Pinzón and Julio Moltó, are allegedly being investigated.
The Prosecutor General’s Office indicated that search procedures will continue with the purpose of recovering other weapons, and noted that among the detainees, some of whom have been released, there are no popularly elected people or former ministers.
Charge hearings will be requested in the coming hours before a judge. EFE-EPA