Brazil Police Op Uncovers Organized Crime-Politics Links

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Police in Brazil have so far arrested 42 people in a case linking Brazilian politicians and drug traffickers, highlighting the extent of corruption among Brazil’s political elite.

The suspects detained on July 4 as a result of an ongoing investigation labeled “Operation Apocalypse” include three councilmen and the son of the Legislative Assembly president in Brazil’s Rondonia department. The Legislative Assembly president, four councilmen, and five deputies from Rondonia are also under investigation.

The suspects are accused of involvement in a scheme in which drug traffickers financed the campaigns of officials, who, once elected, appointed the criminals to non-existent political posts and provided them with money embezzled from the state. One of the alleged leaders of the scheme is a drug trafficker in prison for involvement in a 2002 massacre, and is believed to have coordinated operations via telephone, according to Veja.

In Rondonia alone, a department near the Bolivian border, the group are belived to have moved over $14 million and police have already seized 200 cars, 25 buildings and 30 companies,  O Globo reported.

Suspects will likely be charged with financing drug trafficking, drug trafficking ties, embezzlement and falsification of funds, said police.

InSight Crime Analysis

The scheme underscores links between corrupt politicians and organized crime in Brazil, something that also came to light in a major 2012 scandal in which various politicians were found to have connections with a gambling racket that laundered criminal proceeds. Neither of these are isolated cases; by one 2008 estimate, up to 70 percent of money laundered in Brazil is related to official corruption. According to the 2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), the majority of money laundering in Brazil is linked to domestic crime.

It is noteworthy that this most recent corruption scandal involves an imprisoned drug trafficker, another example of the ease with which major criminals imprisoned in Brazil continue to maintain external operations. The lack of control in Brazilian prisons, spurred in part by the country’s immensely large prison population, has allowed for the rise of powerful prison gangs. 

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