Brazil, Paraguay Detain Port Executives, Businessman for Drug …
Authorities in Brazil, Paraguay and several countries in Europe dismantled a massive drug trafficking ring believed to be responsible for shipping 17 tonnes of cocaine from Paraguay to Europe, where the street value of the drug could have reached several billion U.S. dollars, Europol said.
Among the suspects are port operator executives.
The European police agency said that officers in Brazil detained 15 people, seized over US$87 million worth of assets as well as 173 vehicles and one aircraft. They also froze bank accounts of 147 individuals and 66 companies.
The cocaine was brought to Brazil from Paraguay concealed in lorries and then sent to Europe mixed with legal cargo in order to deceive customs. Once in Europe, the group would divert the container or break it open and remove the cocaine before the legal cargo would reach the clueless customer.
Or the cargo would arrive at port terminals in Europe such as Hamburg, Antwerp or Rotterdam, and be stolen. The drug from the shipment would be distributed as usual and the customer who was supposed to receive the container would be informed that it was stolen.
The suspects managed to stay under the radar for years until Brazilian police received a tip in December 2020 that over 300 kilograms of cocaine had been seized in Hamburg and the trail led back to ports in Brazil.
That’s when investigators started following the group until last week on Thursday 200 police officers searched 37 locations, seized items in Brazil and Paraguay and detained the suspects.
Among the detainees was Rodrigo Alvarenga Paredes, 36, who is believed to have been playing an important role in drug trafficking and money laundering in South America. He was caught in Paraguay and authorities raided his luxurious residence in Asunción.
Paredes is a businessman in the financial and agricultural sector. He owns luxurious properties as well as a fleet of high-end vehicles. He has already been charged with money laundering in the United States.
Brazilian police said that top executives in two large maritime logistics companies based in two Brazilian ports were found to be involved in large-scale drug trafficking.
“We are facing a paradigm shift in drug trafficking in Brazil,” said Aldronei Antonio Pacheco Rodrigues, the regional head of the Brazilian Federal Police. His colleague from the country’s IRS Altemir Linhares de Melo explained that drug trafficking is no longer limited to violent street-level activities. The businessmen that were detained are respectable people “and that shocks us,” he added.