Police in Uruguay have evidence that more than 400 people — among them members of soccer fan clubs, soccer team directors, and at least one politician — are involved in trafficking drugs and weapons, an intersection between soccer and organized crime that has also been seen in neighboring Argentina.
Police say that within this group of suspects, at least 50 have been identified as leaders of the network, reported El Observador.
Unidentified sources linked to the investigation told El Observador that dozens of soccer club directors, businessmen, and those that form part of rowdy fan clubs known as “barras bravas” would soon be summoned to court based on evidence of arms trafficking. Potential charges also include drug trafficking and shielding fugitives.
The “barras bravas” are gangs of soccer fans who pick violent fights with supporters of rival teams, and who are sometimes involved in other criminal activities such as trafficking drugs, as seen in Argentina. Police infiltrated Uruguay’s soccer fan groups as part of the investigation, reported El Observador. According to El Pais, the probe began after one member of a soccer fan group was convicted of drug trafficking in March 2013.
According to El Observador, authorities are still gathering evidence to charge the unnamed politician. Up to three politicians may be under investigation, according to El Pais.
InSight Crime Analysis
This investigation provides evidence that some of Uruguay’s soccer fan gangs have begun operating in a similar manner as Argentina’s “barras bravas,” who are known to participate in a range of illegal activities, from organizing ticket rackets and informal parking services to local drug trafficking. They also derive a great deal of power and impunity from maintaining close links with politicians and trade unions, and have significant influence over soccer club presidents.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Soccer and Crime
There have been previous signs that Uruguay’s soccer fan groups are gaining in power and strength, with police identifying more than 10 of these groups as dangerous. Earlier this year, the leadership of the Uruguayan Soccer Association (AUF) resigned over incidents of soccer-related violence and the government’s decision not to deploy police in soccer stadiums.