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CAM: Panama seizes 53 tonnes of drugs in 2008

06 Jan 2009 3:28 PM

PANAMA CITY, Jan 5 AFP - Panama seized 53 tonnes of drugs in 2008, took over 42 bank accounts, confiscated 700 mobile phones and 209 vehicles connected with drug trafficking, prosecutors said in an annual report on Monday.

Drug seizures were slightly below the previous year, which saw a record haul from a cargo ship of 20 tonnes in March 2007, said drug prosecutor Edwin Guardia.

The 2008 haul included 51 tonnes of cocaine and two of marijuana.

One tenth of the seizures were in joint naval operations with the United States in international waters, the report said.

Police also seized more than $US3 million ($A4.2 million) in cash linked to drug trafficking and confiscated $US1.5 million ($A2.1 million) from 42 bank accounts.

A total of 540 people were charged in connection with drug trafficking; mostly Panamanians, but also Colombians and Mexicans, the report said.

"Colombian cartels concentrate on the production of illicit drugs," while Mexican cartels are "transport cartels working on bringing illicit drugs to the United States and Europe", said chief drug prosecutor Jose Abel Almengor.