On August 31, about 1,100 Brazilian Federal Police agents (PF, in Portuguese) launched the second phase of Operation Safe Box (Operação Caixa Forte), the country’s largest operation that has ever been carried out against criminal organizations. The operation, which was conducted in 72 cities, executed 422 arrest warrants and 201 search and seizure warrants in 19 states, including the Federal District.
The targeted criminal organization was the First Capital Command, known by its Portuguese acronym PCC, which is Brazil’s main narcotrafficking organization. The operation aimed to attack its financial base. “We are no longer inclined to conduct operations by arresting lower level members or simply seizing drugs. The goal is to weaken these criminal organizations,” said Chief of Police Elvis Secco, general coordinator of PF’s repression on drugs and criminal organizations.
As a result of a search and seizure warrant at one of the addresses, police officers found nearly $1.1 million in addition to four firearms. The money was in a house in Santos, a coastal city of São Paulo, which has the largest port in South America. Santos is one of the main operating bases of the PCC, through which the organization moves the drug sold to international destinations.
The judge who issued the warrants served on August 31 also froze close to $50 million in bank accounts associated with the PCC. The investigations that led to Operation Safe Box started in 2018 and exposed a group within the organization that was responsible for managing drug trafficking and for laundering the illegal money.
Bank accounts of individuals who seemed to have no links to the organization were used to move large sums, which were deposited in installments to avoid attracting the attention of fiscal agencies.
The operation also found that some of these accounts were used to deposit money for PCC members who are currently in prison. The money was a payment for their criminal acts and a form of recognition from the organization. The police investigation identified 210 leaders of the PCC who were receiving monthly payments from prison for their contribution to the criminal organization.
The targets of the investigation, who were arrested during a second phase of Operation Safe Box, will be charged with participation in a criminal organization, drug trafficking and money laundering association. The combined sentences can total up to 28 years in prison.