December 22, 2017

BRAZIL: Federal Police Break Up International Drug Trafficking Ring That Was Operating Out Of Rio de Janeiro's International Airport. 27 Suspects Arrested.

Daily Star, Lebanon
written by Associated Press staff
Tuesday December 19, 2017

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazilian federal police agents have arrested 27 people suspected of belonging to an international drug trafficking ring operating out of Rio de Janeiro's International Airport.

The Federal Police said in a Tuesday statement the arrests were the result of a 10 month investigation into the involvement of airport and airline employees and customs and internal revenue staff members.

Police say the gang placed drugs in the luggage of unsuspecting passengers who had checked in on an international flights headed for Europe.
The Guardian, UK
written by Dom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro
Tuesday December 19, 2017

Brazilian police have busted a drug-smuggling ring that operated in Rio de Janeiro’s international airport by duplicating the luggage labels of innocent passengers traveling domestically to send suitcases of cocaine abroad.

Twenty-seven people were arrested, including airline and airport staff, one foreigner, and an official from the Brazilian tax office, police said. A large amount of foreign currency was also found.

“The criminal scheme used innocent passengers,” Wagner Menezes from the federal police – roughly equivalent to Brazil’s FBI – told reporters on Tuesday. “This was very worrying.”

The arrests during what police dubbed Operation Rush also targeted members of criminal groups that sneaked electronic goods past customs to evade import taxes, and stole miniatures of wine, champagne and spirits from planes.

“We did a very specific investigative job and identified three groups operating at Galeão,” Menezes said.

The investigation began in February when a bag arrived in Amsterdam airport with a luggage label showing its destination as the Brazilian city of Salvador, he said. The bag was never claimed and was sent back to Brazil, where, after being x-rayed, it was found to contain 36kg of cocaine.

Menezes said the bag had been given the luggage label of an innocent elderly couple heading for Salvador, then put on an international flight.

“They were an elderly couple, retired,” Menezes said. He said it was not clear if a second luggage label with Amsterdam as the destination had also been put on the bag and then been removed or fallen off.

Police said that in September they then busted a warehouse at the São Sebastião market in Penha, a Rio neighbourhood, and found 300kg of cocaine. The warehouse was used to pack the drugs, which were then taken to the airport by a taxi driver.

Police also believe other shipments were sent to Portugal.

Officers said that when passengers checked in, airline staff duplicated their luggage labels to get bags full of drugs into restricted areas. The gang used luggage labels from domestic flights – which are not subject to the same inspections – and then loaded the bags on to international flights.

A man claiming to be Romanian who is believed to be one of the owners of the drugs was arrested in São Paulo.

“We believe he could have a false document,” said Fábio Andrade, who added that an Albanian man is also being sought.

Operation Rush also arrested members of a criminal group that colluded with passengers who had legally bought electronic goods abroad to get their luggage past customs officials at at Tom Jobim international airport without paying import taxes. A third gang stole miniature bottles of wine, champagne and spirits from aircraft parked at the airport.

Allegations of crime and smuggling at Rio’s international airport have surfaced before. In 2011, 17 people were accused of belonging to a ring that arranged for bags of foreign merchandise to pass through the airport without paying taxes.

Andrade said the thefts of drinks from planes was worrying because it demonstrated security failings. “It shows the fragility of the system,” Andrade said.

No comments: