2009-12-11

Brazilian police take down drug-smuggling ring "First Commando of the Capital"


					A parcel of crack cocaine, illustrated with famous Brazilian soccer star Ronaldo, seized from Rio de Janeiro's Morro dos Macacos neighborhood. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

A parcel of crack cocaine, illustrated with famous Brazilian soccer star Ronaldo, seized from Rio de Janeiro's Morro dos Macacos neighborhood. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

Eduardo Herrera

Friday, Dec. 11

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL – In an action by Brazil’s federal police against a criminal organization known as the First Commando of the Capital (PCC), 16 suspects were arrested on charges of belonging to an international cocaine trafficking network.

The gang smuggled drugs into Brazil from the city of Pedro Juan Caballero in Paraguay, reported O Globo, before distributing them in the provinces of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Among those arrested is a man accused of murdering a police officer in 2003.

The PCC, which emerged in Brazilian prisons in the mid-70s, is one of Brazil's most extended organized crime structures. According to Jornal de Brasilia, the gang operates like a corporation with dozens of lawyers, sophisticated communication systems and numerous employees. This means that although some of the top leaders are in jail, they can continue to operate the network from behind bars.

Operation Country Headquarters, which took its name from a reception camp in rural São Paulo where the drugs were processed and prepared for sale on the black market, put an end to a seven-month investigation. According to O Estado de São Paulo, about 50 federal agents operated simultaneously in Ponta Pora and Dourados, in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul on the Paraguayan border and in the cities of Jundiaí, Mirandópolis, São José do Rio Preto, Taubaté, Cabreúva and Campinas in São Paulo province.

In Ponta Porã, reported EFE, police raided a pharmacy that was used as a hideout and as a cover for the gang's financial transactions. The owner of the establishment, who was not identified, was accused of shipping 811 kilos of cocaine to São Paulo.

In the course of investigations this year, noted Campogrande.news.com.br, 14 other people were arrested and containers of chemicals used to process drugs were seized along with several stolen cars that the network usually sent to Paraguay as payment for the drugs, where the vehicles were subsequently legalized. Authorities also managed to block a dozen bank accounts through which the organization moved money.

Meanwhile, federal agents arrested three people on drug charges in Santa Catarina during operation Joio, and nine others as part of operation Litoral in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

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