Brazil: Federal Police Dismantles International Narcotrafficking Groups
By Eduardo Szklarz/Diálogo February 23, 2021
On January 20, 2021, the Brazilian Federal Police (PF, in Portuguese) arrested five members of a criminal group who were recruiting people to transport cocaine to Lebanon. Three other members of the group remain at large. The arrests occurred as part of Operation Overweight to combat international narcotrafficking.
According to Agência Brasil, the criminals purchased cocaine in Colombia and recruited “mules” (people who knowingly or unknowingly carry drugs, typically to another country) to take the product to Lebanon. The criminals would also arrange lodging for those recruited and handle foreign remittances to the Middle Eastern country.
To ensure that the mules would indeed board the aircraft, a criminal group member would follow them until check-in, making threats and intimidating them if necessary. “If police approached them, these people would disappear to avoid capture,” reported Agência Brasil.
The drug was smuggled inside checked luggage. Individuals would only get paid after two or three trips, ranging from $15,000 to $25,000.
“This Lebanese organization has been operating for at least four years. The mules are generally foreigners, Lebanese [individuals],” said the PF in a statement.
Agents served eight arrest warrants and eight search and seizure warrants in the cities of São Paulo, Jundiaí, and Foz do Iguaçu, at the Triple Frontier. Agents also froze accounts and seized vehicles, properties, and cash, totaling about $25 million.
“A total of 60 kilograms of cocaine and 250 000 reais [about $47,000] were seized at the time of the arrest,” Agência Brasil indicated.
On December 17, 2020, during another operation, more than 40 federal agents dismantled two international narcotrafficking organizations that operated in Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, and Paraná.
“The investigations began in April 2020, after a total of 1.1 metric tons of marijuana were seized in the region of Serra Gaúcha,” informed Agência Brasil.
According to the PF, the marijuana was purchased in Paraguay and shipped to distribution points in three states in the Southern region of Brazil.