Brazil: Security Forces Dismantle Group Operating as Criminal Franchise
By Eduardo Szklarz/Diálogo March 15, 2021
On February 5, the Brazilian Federal Police (PF, in Portuguese) and the Mato Grosso Civil Police dismantled a criminal group that trafficked drugs and laundered money in various Brazilian states.
During Operation Parasite, agents executed 34 arrest, search, and seizure warrants, seized property and vehicles, and froze $2.2 million in bank accounts.
“This operation achieved very positive results because it directly combats criminal leaders, the financial system, and money laundering,” said the Mato Grosso Secretary of Public Security Alexandre Bustamante in a press conference.
The group, led by an inmate of the Central Penitentiary of Mato Grosso state, also operated in Pernambuco, Paraíba, and Mato Grosso do Sul.
“The organization operated like a criminal franchise, with commercial connections and relationships with other criminal organizations, inside and outside of Mato Grosso,” said the PF in a statement.
The members of this franchise would pay monthly taxes and were forced to share the profit from their activities with the leaders.
“The main members behind bars would rely on the help of those who were free to execute their orders, collect money, distribute drugs, and monitor financial transactions,” informed the PF.
Investigations found that the criminals moved close to $3.3 million between 2018 and 2020.
“The transfers were made using a technique known as smurfing, which consists of splitting money into multiple small transactions to avoid detection and the administrative control of financial institutions,” said the Mato Grosso government in a statement.
The group was responsible for a nearly 500-kilogram shipment of marijuana seized in July 2020, in Rondonópolis, in Mato Grosso.
At the time, authorities arrested two teenage girls for keeping the drugs in a warehouse, as ordered by the leaders of the organization, the Brazilian news portal G1 reported.