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Tuesday, July 17 2018 @ 03:23 PM EDT

Ludwig Hoffman And The "Stahlratte" - Operating Illegally in Panama?

Boats and Sailing By Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com - A new source has provided me with additional information regarding attempts by the serial killer Javier Martin to book trips for unsuspecting backpackers who want to travel between Panama's San Blas islands and Cartagena in Colombia, from his jail cell in Panama's La Joya prison, using a smart phone smuggled in by a corrupt prison guard, aboard Ludwig Hoffman's "Stahlratte" (Steel Rat) sailing vessel.

It turns out Ludwig Hoffman might be working illegally in Panama, by using his "Stahlratte" sailing vessel to haul backpackers from the San Blas islands to Cartagena, Colombia. My source tells me "Ludwig Hoffmann is working illegally in Panama," saying "he is a parasite, operating in Comarca Kuna Yala without any permit." I'm currently working to verify and validate this accusation.

Admittedly the Panamanian government is notoriously absent with regards to these sailing vessels that regularly and routinely ferry backpackers from the San Blas islands to Colombia. There is little oversight, no inspectors, and few regulations. The little government presence that exists is notoriously corrupt, as well. Remember Ismael Sagel Lopez, the Port Captain of El Porvenir in the San Blas islands? After Javier Martin murdered the Frenchman Jean Pierre Bouhard, Martin literally drove a little dingy with an outboard motor all the way from Portobelo to El Porvenier, where he paid bribes to Ismael Sagel Lopez to create bogus ownership documents for Jean Pierre Bouhard's catamaran the "Levante." Javier Martin had just shot Jean Pierre Bouhard in the head and thrown his body into the ocean, in order to steal the "Levante." See this article for the details: Panama Port Captain Creates Fake Official Government Documents For Serial Killer.

I am being told Ludwig Hoffman has been operating a commercial sailing operation in the Guna Yala for years, without any permissions or permits to do so. I am currently attempting to contact the lawyer who is representing the interests of the Guna Yala people in these sorts of situations. Several calls have gone to voicemail.

Ludwig Hoffman and his "Stahlratte" sailing vessel will be arriving in Panama on 13 June, and then departing on 17 June for Cartagena, Colombia. I will be advising the lawyer who represents the interests of the Guna Yala people, as well as the Panamanian authorities, that this supposedly "non-commercial" sailing vessel will be stopping in Panama just long enough to pick up backpackers, who pay $510 per person to make the trip. This is the schtick Ludwig Hoffman has posted on his website;

  • "Our Project - SV "Stahlratte" is NOT a commercial sailing-vessel! The owner is a foundation, which was founded in 1984 as a commune and the ships purpose was/is to be a traveling platform for group life/experience. The project is run without any profits and the main issue is the surviving and maintenance of this historic ship.We try to keep it sailing for many people to have fun and good experiences. The crew is entirely composed of volunteers (also backpackers), who work in a rotation system for 3-6 month without being paid. All money earned with guests sailing on "Stahlratte" is exclusively spent for the maintenance of this vessel and the living of the 4-5 crewmembers on board."

Well, that's nice. An all cash business. Sailing around the Caribbean between Panama, Colombia, Cuba, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Belize. Not answering to anyone. And according to Ludwig Hoffman - supposedly "not commercial." I've long suspected there might be sailing vessels hauling backpackers around the Caribbean, using them basically as camouflage to run drugs to the North and money to the South. One thing I've noticed about criminals who get caught, is they immediately tend to accuse others of doing the exact same things they were doing. When I caught Javier Martin trying to arrange passage for backpackers aboard Ludwig Hoffman's "Stahlratte" - he posted an article on his website accusing me of (you guessed it) using a sailing yacht to traffic drugs and launder money. I wonder if the US Navy or the DEA has ever taken a real hard look at the "Stahlratte." Birds of a feather and all that. Nah, it's probably nothing...

And, I'm not stupid. The "Stahlratte" can carry a total of 25 passengers and crew - it's a relatively large boat. Most of the people who are providing me with information about Ludwig Hoffmann and his vessel are also in the business of transporting backpackers from Panama to Colombia, making him their competition. I get it. However he's also the only one who was willing to accept reservations from his buddy, Javier Martin. The rest of the gang saw my reporting, and piled on. So I'm not blind to the fact that this is their opportunity to maybe scoop up some of the people who were going to be riding on the "Stahlratte." It's a cutthroat business.

But here's what floats my boat. If anyone out there every wants to do business with Javier Martin - they can bet that sooner or later I'll find out about it. And then their boat will be the featured centerpiece of a similar series of articles. What Javier Martin is doing is illegal. Consider this to be a public service announcement.

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Ludwig Hoffman And The "Stahlratte" - Operating Illegally in Panama? | 1 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Ludwig Hoffman And The \"Stahlratte\" - Operating Illegally in Panama?
Authored by: stbarnett on Tuesday, May 20 2014 @ 08:43 PM EDT

Don,

I don't know Hoffman, have never met him, have never used his boat, and have no financial interest in his operation. However, I have met many people who have used his services to get from Panama to Cartagena or vice versa. These are mainly motorcyclists (like myself) who have have been making the trip from the US to South America and needed a way to get themselves and their motorcycles to/from Colombia.

Air shipment of a motorcycle has gotten extremely expensive, so these types of boats are really the only other reasonable option. I have invariably heard that the quality of his operation is far above that of the other boats plying this route. I have talked to many people with horror stories of drunken captains, no food, poor maintenance, etc. One good friend of mine was actually dumped on an island in San Blas by the captain and had to have the locals get her and her bike to the mainland by canoe. But I have only heard good things about the Stahlratte. Everyone I have talked to has enjoyed the trip and had praise for the quality of the voyage.

I don't know what else Hoffman might or might not be up to or who he is supporting. However, I think that in the interest of fairness -- and given the lack of options available for getting between Panama and Colombia -- the fact that this operation gets good reviews from customers should be noted.