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Brazilian Federal Police Investigates Drug Trafficking from International Airport

Brazilian Federal Police Investigates Drug Trafficking from International Airport

By Andréa Barretto/Diálogo
March 31, 2021

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The Brazilian Federal Police (PF, in Portuguese) carried out yet another operation aimed at decapitalizing criminal drug trafficking organizations in Brazil with Operation Lavaggio on February 10, 2021. The operation served six search and seizure warrants and seven court orders putting a lien on properties located in two cities in São Paulo. The frozen assets are valued at more than $530,000.

The investigation that led to the identification of these assets was launched in 2019, when police intercepted a 58-kilogram shipment of cocaine in Campinas, at Viracopos International Airport, the country’s largest terminal by volume of cargo transported by air. The drug was bound for Europe. Following this lead, the PF carried out Operation Overload in October 2020. A total of 35 people were arrested, including the owner of the assets seized and blocked during the PF’s third strike, through Operation Lavaggio.

“Why do we need to deploy an operation? Because, with Operation Overload, we investigated the illicit activity, which in this case was drug trafficking. From that point on, we began to observe the movements, case by case,” said Edson Geraldo de Souza, PF chief officer in Campinas.

According to the latest police investigations based on documents and intelligence information, the criminal — whose name the PF has not revealed — is one of the core drug trafficking operators at Campinas International Airport. He was one of the individuals responsible for co-opting airport employees to facilitate the transit of illicit cargo on planes, and also negotiated with foreign connections who received the shipment abroad.

In order to hide the illegal money, the gang committed other crimes. The police identified at least 20 money laundering activities, including disposal of vehicles, purchases of houses, farms, and apartments, involving family members, third parties, and legal entities, whose income were not compatible with the transactions, the PF said in a press release. Money laundering can carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

The day before launching Operation Lavaggio, the PF intercepted a shipment of half a ton of cocaine at another Brazilian airport in the northeastern region of Brazil. The drug was also bound for Europe, concealed in a small airplane that landed at the Salvador International Airport, due to mechanical failure. It is not yet known whether a connection exits between the events that occurred at the two Brazilian airports.