On April 1, the Brazilian Federal Police (PF) launched Operation Decontamination to dismantle a criminal group that was sending drugs by sea to Europe. PF officers, with the support of the Bahia Military Police, served 12 search and seizure warrants and eight preventive arrest warrants in several cities of Bahia and São Paulo states.
“The organization, which used the Port of Salvador, Bahia, to ship cocaine to Europe, co-opted port employees to insert the drug into containers that were transported via ships,” the PF said in a statement.
“[The criminals] would enter the port with the cocaine hidden in the back of service vehicles. After accessing the place, they would go to the container that was bound for Europe, break the seal, put the drugs in and put a new seal, which they falsified here in Salvador,” PF Deputy Rodrigo Motta told Brazilian news site G1.
The Federal Court blocked the bank accounts of nine person under investigation. Authorities also seized luxury cars, weapons, jewelry, cash, and 50 kilograms of cocaine, Deputy Motta said.
“Since the beginning of the investigations, which began in September 2019, in conjunction with the [Brazilian] Federal Revenue Service, six cocaine seizures have been made in Brazil and abroad, totaling about 3.5 tons of the drug,” Agência Brasil reported.
The last seizure occurred in September 2021, when the PF arrested an employee of the Container Terminal of the Port of Salvador and two employees of third-party companies who were caught inserting 165 kg of cocaine in a container, Agência Brasil added.
Ports of Santos and Itajaí
In April, Brazilian authorities also stopped two shipments of cocaine from leaving the Port of Santos bound for Europe. In the first operation, on April 6, the PF and the Federal Revenue Service seized about 600 kg of cocaine hidden in a container of corn. “The ship had Holland as transshipment and Portugal as the final destination,” the PF said.
On April 7, agents served two arrest warrants and three search and seizure warrants in another operation against international narcotrafficking. “Employees of companies that operate in the port were co-opted to clandestinely insert the drug in the compartments of ships bound for foreign countries,” the PF said.
According to authorities, the criminals sent cocaine abroad by inserting bags in the hold of the ships. They also placed it in sea chests, which are recesses in the hull of a ship that houses pipes to take in seawater.
“Those involved are being investigated for the crimes of international narcotics trafficking and association for trafficking, which penalties range from eight to 25 years in prison and fine,” the PF said.
Between 2016 and March 2022, the Federal Revenue Service seized more than 111 tons of cocaine in the Port of Santos alone, Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo reported.