Authorities in Brazil have attributed nearly four tons of internationally destined cocaine seized in a major port to the PCC criminal group, in a further sign of the organization's expansion and growing influence.
On March 31, Brazil's Federal Police arrested 23 people and seized vehicles, weapons, more than $317,000 in Euro notes, and over 3.7 tons of cocaine in the Port of Santos, located 70 km southeast of downtown São Paulo, reported G1 Globo. The bust is one of the largest ever in Latin America's busiest port.
Police say the First Capital Command (PCC) participated in the smuggling scheme, making this the first case with evidence linking the group to trans-continental drug trafficking, reported Veja. The scheme saw cocaine trafficked from Bolivia and Paraguay to São Paulo, with the PCC ultimately responsible for placing the drugs in shipping containers destined for Europe, Cuba, and Africa.
Police Commissioner Reinaldo Sperandio said no port officials had been implicated in the trafficking operation during their investigations, which began in 2013 as part of two major operations codenamed Oversea and Hulk, reported G1 Globo.
InSight Crime Analysis
In recent years, the PCC has steadily expanded its underworld influence beyond its base in São Paulo, where it was established by prisoners in the 1990s. The group is now estimated to operate in at least 21 of Brazil's 27 states, earning at least $2.5 million a month from illicit activities, and controlling trafficking routes between Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay.
Now it appears the PCC may be expanding beyond regional and local drug trafficking and moving into this global cocaine business, providing a further indication of their growing power.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of the PCC
In recent years, Brazil has become a major departure point for cocaine shipped to Europe, often via West Africa, where a mixture of porous borders, endemic corruption and the shared languages in some nations has made it an increasingly popular transshipment point and operational base for Latin American criminal groups.
Despite Sperandio's statement to the contrary, it is highly unlikely a nearly four-ton cocaine consignment could have entered the port without some cooperation from corrupt employees at the facility.