Brazil: Federal Police Investigates International Gold Smuggling Organization
By Eduardo Szklarz/Diálogo November 27, 2020
On October 9, the Brazilian Federal Police (PF, in Portuguese) launched an operation to dismantle a money laundering, tax evasion, and gold smuggling scheme from Venezuela to Brazil.
“The investigations concluded that the criminal group consisted of a Lebanese citizen and his two brothers, who would coordinate the illegal scheme to purchase gold from Venezuela,” the PF said in a statement.
The metal casting was carried out in Santa Elena de Uairén, a Venezuelan municipality located 15 kilometers from the Brazilian city of Pacaraima, in Roraima.
During Operation Dhahab (gold, in Arabic), 60 police officers served four arrest warrants, 11 search and seizure orders, and made three seizures of assets, all in Roraima.
“Only one of those involved would have made transactions amounting to 67 million reals [about $12 million] in the first half of this year,” the PF stated. Between February and March, the group sent about $2 million to Venezuela, including dollars and reals, and received more than 50 kilograms of gold, according to the police report.
The transactions are believed to have been made through proxy bank accounts and front companies, in addition to cash withdrawals.
“Both the gold and cash would have been transported in the hidden compartments of vehicles. The criminal organization would also buy gold from Guyana,” the PF indicated.
Armed groups, such as the National Liberation Army and dissidents of the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, in Spanish) head gold mining operations in Venezuela.
“In addition to their narcotrafficking operations, the former FARC mafia participates in illegal gold mining in the states of Bolívar and Amazonas,” the InsightCrime website indicated.
The nongovernmental organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that Bolívar residents are “victims of amputations and other horrific abuses” at the hands of armed groups that control the mines, including Venezuelan organizations known as “syndicates.”
“The armed groups seem to operate largely with government consent, and in some cases government involvement, to maintain tight social control over local populations,” said HRW in a recent report.