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Wednesday, April 23 2014 @ 02:35 PM EDT

Panama Prosecutor Suspects Involvement of US Embassy Employees in Human Trafficking Ring

Crime & Punishment By VICTOR SANTOS for El Siglo - Two subjects who were arrested in the United States with drugs could be the key in the investigations currently being carried out by the Special Prosecutor for Organized Crime, into a network that was involved in issuing visas to the US and Europe using the stolen identities of Panamanian citizens. Prosecutor Jose Ayu Prado said his office has requested information from the United States through diplomatic channels about the staff working at the US Embassy in Panama, because it is suspected that members of this network are working there. According to Ayu Prado, thus far Interpol has not responded to the requests from his offices, which is why he will repeat his requests for information to the Interpol offices in Washington, Havana, Santo Domingo, and Bogotá. Research suggests the network used the identities of Panamanians to smuggle illicit drugs into the United States and Europe. Several people have already been detained in this investigation, including an official from the office of the Electoral Tribunal in Colon, a person who worked at the Passport office in Panama City, a person who worked for the Public Ministry in Colon, and one who worked for the Direction of Judicial Investigaiton (DIJ). Initial investigations revealed the forged documents were made for Dominican citizens who paid up to $5,000 dollars for the visa to travel to the United States and Europe. (See Comments)

Editor's Comment: As I translated this article it quickly became a "stop the presses" moment. Yesterday as Panama's Organized Crime Prosecutor José Ayú Prado was leaving the Public Ministry building he stopped to talk to the gaggle of Panamanian journalists who often camp out there. He spoke about the ongoing investigations into the network of people who were creating false Panamanian passports, and how those passports were being sold to people from the Dominican Republic. Now, apparently two people have been arrested in the United States on drug trafficking charges, and apparently they were traveling on these falsified Panamanian passports. But, the real bomb in the story was his allegations or assertions of how he suspects or has some kind of information that there were employees of the US Embassy, specifically the US Consulate that issues visas for travel to the United States, involved in this network. Based on the statements made by the prosecutor I have started my own investigation and we shall see where it goes. But, if it turns out that in fact there were employees of the US Embassy basically selling visas to drug traffickers, this story will get huge, instantly.

Embajada de EEUU en la mira

VICTOR SANTOS vsantos@elsiglo.com

Cobraban 5 mil por falsificar las visas

Dos sujetos que fueron detenidos en Estados Unidos con drogas, podrían ser la clave en las investigaciones que adelanta la Fiscalía del Crimen Organizado, sobre una red que se dedicaba a expedir visas hacia ese país y Europa usurpando nombres de nacionales.

El fiscal José Ayú Prado declaró que se solicitó información a Estados Unidos (EEUU), a través de los conductos diplomáticos sobre el personal que labora en la Embajada en Panamá, ya que se sospecha que hay integrantes de esta red operando en esa entidad.

Según Ayú Prado, hasta el momento la Oficina de Interpol no ha respondido las solicitudes hechas por su despacho, razón por la cual se va a reiterar los oficios a Interpol Washington, La Habana, Santo Domingo y Bogotá.

Las investigaciones apuntan a que la red utilizaba las identidades de panameños, para traficar sustancias ilícitas a Estados Unidos y Europa.

Los detenidos son una funcionaria del Tribunal Electoral de Colón, otra de Pasaportes de Panamá, uno del Ministerio Público de Colón y uno de la DIJ, quien estaba en proceso de reintegro. Las primeras pesquisas revelan que los documentos falsos eran confeccionados para ciudadanos dominicanos, quienes pagaban hasta 5 mil dólares por las visas, para viajar a Estados Unidos y Europa.

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