$7.2 million in cash was found at a Panama airport stuffed into eight suitcases this week. Panamanian police described it as their biggest bust ever, and while three men have been arrested so far, their investigation is ongoing.
The $7.2 million in cash found belonged to a well-known drug cartel, according to police. The suitcases were brought from Toncontin airport in Tegucigalpa, Honduras to Tocumen International Aiport in Panama by three Honduran men aged 41, 39, and 32.
After the men got off of the flight, police managed to catch them smuggling the money in once they discovered a second, hidden compartment in all of their luggage bags. The fake bottoms were removed and police found huge bundles of cash in $100 bills.
Authorities had been tipped off by intelligence that was gathered pointing to drug money coming through Tocumen Airport, chief drug prosecutor Javier Caraballo told local news.
Now the investigation has turned to Honduras, as police try to find out how such a large amount of money slipped by airport authorities, drug police and special investigators at Toncontin airport.
So far 32 people have been suspended or fired, with 25 of them being police officers, Reuben Martel, director of the National Bureau of Special Investigation, told Televicentro.hn. Five airport x-ray technicians were fired, and two officers from the Directorate for Combating Drug Trafficking were also let go.
Panama's recent law changes concerning international banking have made the Central American country a haven for money laundering, cash smuggling, and foreign nationals attempting to hide their millions for tax purposes. Police described this most recent bust as the biggest seizure in years, though they have not yet revealed the name of the cartel that lost $7.2 million.