On 2nd September, Insight Crime reported that a criminal network which used creative methods, including hiring legitimate jewellers, to help smuggle gold into Panama and launder proceeds back in Colombia has been brought down, underscoring the rising importance of this illegal gold trafficking route. It is said that human “mules” used diverse methods to smuggle the gold onto flights to Panama, such as by adding steel or silver layers on top of it and using these to make chains, bracelets, keychains, purse straps and other innocuous objects. It is estimated around $5.5 million worth of gold was smuggled out by the gang, although the assets seized were worth $17.4 million. Corrupt airport officials in Colombia also aided the group in bypassing security checkpoints, and allegedly sometimes brought the products hiding the gold into the airports and then handed them to the smugglers shortly before boarding their flights. In Panama, the gold it was delivered to the offices of Gold America and Alpha Trading, companies in the free trade zone of Colón. The carriers would then be paid in jewels and precious stones coming from Italy, which they smuggled back to Colombia to be used and sold as legitimate.
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