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  • Writer's picturePanama Human Rights

EXCLUSIVE: 'It was like the Vietnam war!' My Panama prison hell.

Updated: Nov 12, 2019

A BRITISH gangland boss has told of his daily fight for survival in the world's most terrifying prison.

Former nightclub bouncer Leo Morgan has seen 60 other inmates killed during the 11 years he has spent caged in a barbaric jail in the jungles of Panama.

The ex-boxer lives mainly on rice and rainwater, only earning extra food and perks if he competes in savage bare-knuckle fights against other inmates.

"It's unbelievable, it's like the Vietnam War, the body count," said father of six, Morgan, who began life as a butcher in Birmingham, became a feared mobster across the Midlands and then led a global cocaine dealing cartel.

He was jailed in 2003 for money laundering offences after a £500,000 haul of coke was found at a ranch he owned in South America.

Since then his home has been the rat-infested El Renacer jail outside Panama City.

The ramshackle hell-hole, surrounded by razor wire is nicknamed "The Beast" because life there is so awful.

Morgan has been held in the jail's Pavilion Six, built to house 180 men, but currently holding 506 lags. Many of them have AIDS, malaria or tuberculosis.

There are so few beds that new prisoners sleep on the floor beside the stinking latrines.

"Toilet? You use a bag or bucket and throw it over the wall," said Morgan, who has a Mensa-level IQ and speaks 10 foreign languages.

"They die of natural causes, they're shot, knifed, there are heart attacks, suicide. I've seen someone stabbed 17 times and live, I've seen someone punched once in the heart and he's dead."

But he insists he will survive whatever horror's life in El Renacer throws at him.

"I'm not going to die here. I've become acclimatised to it," he said.

Incredibly, Morgan could either be freed from the stinking El Renacer prison within weeks or be told he must serve another 10 years there - his lawyers have been unable to discover exactly how long his sentence is.

Birmingham solicitor Laurie Neale, who acts for Morgan in the UK, said: "It's medieval, it's like he's been locked in a tower and forgotten.

"Leo Morgan's story is true but unbelievable. He's an incredible survivor, he's fed up, but he stays positive.

"He was jailed for 10 years then given another 10-year sentence for further offences, but nobody can tell us whether that second term is concurrent or consecutive. He launched an appeal but has heard nothing.

"I've managed to get him monthly visits in jail from the British consul staff in Panama, but they won't discuss it with me, it's all very cloak and dagger."

Being freed by the Panamanian authorities could see Morgan face an even worse fate.

He is still on Interpol's Most Wanted list for alleged drug trafficking in Russia and would be immediately deported to the strife-torn Chechnya region to face trial there instead of being allowed home.

"This is something that obviously concerns him greatly," said Mr Neale.

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