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Brazilian Security Forces Use Intelligence to Fight Amazon Region Deforestation

By Dialogo
November 28, 2014




Operation Castanheira – the largest operation in Brazil’s history launched to prevent land theft and deforestation in the Amazon – concluded in late August, but two of its primary targets remain at large.

The operation was a yearlong investigation by the Federal Police, the Federal Revenue Service, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office (MPF) and the Environmental and Renewable Natural Resources Institute (Ibama). It led to the indictment of nearly two dozen people who were allegedly part of a gang which accounted for 10 percent of the deforestation in the Amazon region in 2013 and the first eight months of 2014. The illegal logging organization consisted of ranchers, business owners and attorneys.

“The main members of this gang were business people, owners of supermarkets and hotels, in addition to other industries,” according to Agent Bruno Benassuly, commander of the Federal Police aspect of the operation. “Those involved either lived in the region or were continually traveling there to check on their businesses. In the court-authorized wiretap recordings, the parties involved speak of the area as a ‘large expansion’ area for Brazil’s agribusiness industry, since the State of Mato Grosso was already saturated, with land commanding very high prices.”

Two of the fugitives -- considered among the most dangerous by Ibama -- are still on the run. The squatters, known by their first names as Castanha and Ismael, both own supermarkets and are named in arrest warrants issued by the Federal Court of Itaituba.

Meanwhile, one of the alleged leaders of the deforestation organization, Giovany Marcelino Pascoal, remains incarcerated.

Security forces used intelligence to dismantle deforestation gang


The law enforcement agents who worked on Operation Castanheira used intelligence to identify and dismantle the deforestation gang. They discovered the group by cross-referencing data on deforestation in the Amazon and checking this information against the criminal activities of individuals and companies in the states of Pará, Paraná, Mato Grosso and São Paulo.

The gang operated primarily in the area along the BR-163 roadway, known as Santarém-Cuiabá, particularly in the municipalities of Novo Progresso, Itaituba and Altamira, in the western part of the State of Pará. They allegedly invaded, deforested and burned public lands – such as the Jamanxim National Forest – and afterwards offered the lands to business owners, investors, farmers and livestock ranchers in that and other regions in Brazil, claiming that they would be good for growing soy or raising livestock. Through this scheme, the gang earned, on average, about 22 million Brazilian reais (US$8.8 million) per lot.

Deforestation gang evaded taxes


To evade taxes, the members of the gang allegedly executed documents at the Nacional Institute for Settlement and Agrarian Reform (Incra) in order to create the deeds through the Legal Land program under the Ministry of Agrarian Development. They recorded property at the Rural-Environmental Property Registry, under the Ministry of the Environment.

Gang members also had informants and accomplices in several tax agencies, according to Benassuly. But though they may have dodged taxes, they now face large potential fines for their alleged criminal activities.

“The fines come to almost 500 million Brazilian reais (US$200 million), among all of those involved,” said Hugo Américo Schaedler, Ibama’s Superintendent for Pará Hugo. “Recovering the forested lands happens quickly, but this was a large loss, so the ecological processes are slow to re-establish themselves, and may not return to the balance that existed previously.”

The gang members charged in the indictment face charges for a wide array of criminal offenses, crimes, including the invasion of public lands, theft, tax fraud, environmental crimes, document forgery, conspiracy and money laundering.

If convicted, the suspects face long prison terms. Some of the charges carry a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison.



Operation Castanheira – the largest operation in Brazil’s history launched to prevent land theft and deforestation in the Amazon – concluded in late August, but two of its primary targets remain at large.

The operation was a yearlong investigation by the Federal Police, the Federal Revenue Service, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office (MPF) and the Environmental and Renewable Natural Resources Institute (Ibama). It led to the indictment of nearly two dozen people who were allegedly part of a gang which accounted for 10 percent of the deforestation in the Amazon region in 2013 and the first eight months of 2014. The illegal logging organization consisted of ranchers, business owners and attorneys.

“The main members of this gang were business people, owners of supermarkets and hotels, in addition to other industries,” according to Agent Bruno Benassuly, commander of the Federal Police aspect of the operation. “Those involved either lived in the region or were continually traveling there to check on their businesses. In the court-authorized wiretap recordings, the parties involved speak of the area as a ‘large expansion’ area for Brazil’s agribusiness industry, since the State of Mato Grosso was already saturated, with land commanding very high prices.”

Two of the fugitives -- considered among the most dangerous by Ibama -- are still on the run. The squatters, known by their first names as Castanha and Ismael, both own supermarkets and are named in arrest warrants issued by the Federal Court of Itaituba.

Meanwhile, one of the alleged leaders of the deforestation organization, Giovany Marcelino Pascoal, remains incarcerated.

Security forces used intelligence to dismantle deforestation gang


The law enforcement agents who worked on Operation Castanheira used intelligence to identify and dismantle the deforestation gang. They discovered the group by cross-referencing data on deforestation in the Amazon and checking this information against the criminal activities of individuals and companies in the states of Pará, Paraná, Mato Grosso and São Paulo.

The gang operated primarily in the area along the BR-163 roadway, known as Santarém-Cuiabá, particularly in the municipalities of Novo Progresso, Itaituba and Altamira, in the western part of the State of Pará. They allegedly invaded, deforested and burned public lands – such as the Jamanxim National Forest – and afterwards offered the lands to business owners, investors, farmers and livestock ranchers in that and other regions in Brazil, claiming that they would be good for growing soy or raising livestock. Through this scheme, the gang earned, on average, about 22 million Brazilian reais (US$8.8 million) per lot.

Deforestation gang evaded taxes


To evade taxes, the members of the gang allegedly executed documents at the Nacional Institute for Settlement and Agrarian Reform (Incra) in order to create the deeds through the Legal Land program under the Ministry of Agrarian Development. They recorded property at the Rural-Environmental Property Registry, under the Ministry of the Environment.

Gang members also had informants and accomplices in several tax agencies, according to Benassuly. But though they may have dodged taxes, they now face large potential fines for their alleged criminal activities.

“The fines come to almost 500 million Brazilian reais (US$200 million), among all of those involved,” said Hugo Américo Schaedler, Ibama’s Superintendent for Pará Hugo. “Recovering the forested lands happens quickly, but this was a large loss, so the ecological processes are slow to re-establish themselves, and may not return to the balance that existed previously.”

The gang members charged in the indictment face charges for a wide array of criminal offenses, crimes, including the invasion of public lands, theft, tax fraud, environmental crimes, document forgery, conspiracy and money laundering.

If convicted, the suspects face long prison terms. Some of the charges carry a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison.
This comment might also be good. I travel around the San Lorenzo area this is near the Marañón River, you get to a community in Zaramiriza also in this area, the land belongs to no man I got there to see about repairing rural coin operated telephones from San Lorenzo you go along the Marañón until Zaramiriza along the whole river it's like in the photos above
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