Arrest of Top Trafficker Unlikely to Slow Growth of Brazil’s PCC

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A high-profile drug trafficker connected to Brazil’s PCC has been captured in Mozambique. The surprise ending to a 21-year manhunt raises interesting questions about whether the current leadership of the notorious gang will be able to hold onto power.

Gilberto Aparecido Dos Santos, alias “Fuminho,” known as an important drug trafficker working with the First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC), was arrested on April 13 with two Nigerian associates near a luxury hotel in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, where he had been staying since March.

Local outlets in Brazil reported that, at the time of his arrest, Fuminho had already traveled through multiple African countries and was working with local business partners to arrange drug trafficking and money laundering schemes on behalf of the PCC.

The arrest was the result of a joint operation between the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Mozambique’s police and the Brazilian federal police.

SEE ALSO: Paraguay’s Underworld Fighting Back Against PCC in Brazil

Fuminho had managed to elude capture since 1999 when he broke out of prison and took his fingerprint records with him. He spent the early 2000s consolidating control over the cocaine and arms supply flowing into Brazil from Bolivia and Paraguay. On two occasions, he allegedly tried and failed to break top PCC leader Marcos Willians Herbas Camacho, alias “Marcola,” out of prison, according to Globo.

Brazil issued a new warrant for Fuminho’s arrest in 2018 after he was connected to the assassinations of PCC leaders Rogério Jeremias de Simone, alias “Gegê do Mangue,” and Fabiano Alves de Souza, alias “Paca,” who had allegedly been embezzling gang profits.

Fuminho was most likely based in Bolivia until the fall of the Evo Morales government in October 2019, when he seems to have lost many business partners there and decided to flee, Brazilian official sources told InSight Crime. He was reportedly traveling in Mozambique using a false Bolivian passport, according to O Estado de São Paulo. The PCC is known to outsource document forgeries to its African partners.

InSight Crime Analysis

While Fuminho’s arrest is a public relations victory for Brazilian authorities, it will probably do little to alter the country’s drug trafficking landscape. It’s not even clear if Fuminho is a full-fledged member of the PCC.

While he has been widely reported as a high-ranking lieutenant of the PCC and even a second in command, there is no consensus in Brazilian intelligence services regarding his status in the organization. The PCC often keeps its leaders off its internal books to keep their identities hidden, which could help explain the confusion.

But several Brazilian sources told InSight Crime Fuminho was more of a close friend to Marcola than an “irmão,” or “brother,” as members are called. In either case, he was an important ally, securing cocaine from Bolivia through his own network, helping to shore up drug trafficking routes into Paraguay and helping resolve internal disputes.

Still, the PCC has done a good job of rebounding from the loss of key associates in the past. The deaths of Gegê do Mangue and Paca in 2018, for example, had no noticeable effect on the group’s drug trafficking activity in Brazil or abroad, experts on the PCC told InSight Crime. And before that, the arrest of Elton Leonel Rumich da Silva, alias “Galán,” who helped Fuminho transport Bolivian arms and cocaine, also had little visible impact.

For his part, Marcola has been moved between numerous isolated cells in the Brazilian prison system since the early 2000s, but this does not appear to have significantly weakened his grip on power. The gang is used to working remotely across a vast horizontal network of constantly changing lieutenants — a system that has contributed to its rapid rise across Brazil and into neighboring Paraguay, and facilitated high-level drug trafficking contacts in the United States and Europe.

SEE ALSO: São Paulo, Paraguay and Beyond: The PCC’s Growing Power

Brazilian authorities have made headline-grabbing arrests of figures who were tasked with smuggling cocaine out of the country and on to far reaches of the world. But they either continued to work from inside prison, like Marcola and the vast majority of PCC leadership, or they were replaced.

Fuminho’s case looks to fit this pattern. He is believed to have relied on an expansive criminal network in Bolivia’s Chapare and the smugglers working around Paraguay’s Tri-Border area to transport arms and drugs into Brazil. The Bolivian network enjoys police protection, crime experts told InSight Crime, and face no threat of disbanding as a result of Fuminho’s arrest.

Fuminho will most likely continue to operate from prison or someone will take over the trafficking of drugs and arms that he oversaw. For the PCC, business is unlikely to change much.

*InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley assisted on the reporting.

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