Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

Panama; United States: Agreement on Forfeited Funds

(Jan. 6, 2014) The United States and Panama signed an agreement in October 2013 under which they will share over $36 million in forfeited assets. (Press Release, U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Deputy Attorney General Cole and Panamanian Attorney General Belfon Sign Agreement to Share Forfeited Assets (Oct. 22, 2013).)

The agreement was reached following extensive assistance provided by the Panamanian government to the United States in a case involving money laundering perpetrated by the owners of jewelry stores based in Panama. (Id.) In 1998, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and authorities from Panama started an investigation of the owners, who turned out to be laundering proceeds derived from narcotics trafficking through their jewelry stores. (Id.) According to a press release issued on the occasion of the 2013 agreement,

In 2000, a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of New York indicted the businesses and their owners on charges of money laundering and money laundering conspiracy. At the request of the United States, Panamanian authorities restrained the assets of the businesses and extradited their owners to the United States for trial. The owners pleaded guilty in April 2002, and the U.S. court issued a final order of forfeiture in May 2006 for all corporate assets of (the jewelry stores). In October 2008, the Panamanian Supreme Court ordered enforcement of the U.S. forfeiture order and in April 2010 authorized the transfer to the United States of 468 boxes filled with 10 tons of gold and silver jewelry, gem stones and watches for liquidation by the U.S. Marshals Service. In May 2011, more than $52 million in proceeds from the liquidation was deposited into the Department of Justice Assets Forfeiture Fund. (Id.)

The agreement provides for the formation of a bi-national committee tasked with overseeing the asset-sharing process. This committee will approve projects and programs aimed at supporting Panama’s ability to counter money laundering. (Id.)