HomeNewsIllegal Cigarettes Produced with Slave Labor in Brazil
NEWS

Illegal Cigarettes Produced with Slave Labor in Brazil

BRAZIL / 2 NOV 2021 BY GABRIELLE GORDER EN

Counterfeit cigarettes may appear harmless, but the illicit tobacco trade often spurs other criminal activities – with the latest case being the use of slave labor by a ring that manufactured illegal cigarettes in Brazil.

Authorities rescued 17 Paraguayan nationals and 1 Brazilian that had been kept at an illegal underground cigarette factory in the town of Triunfo, in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, according to a police news release. The victims, who had not seen the light of day for 8 months, were held in a bunker and sent food every two days.  

SEE ALSO: Brazil News and Profile

The factory – made to appear as a cereal plant – produced about 10 million packs of cigarettes per month. The cigarettes – sold on the black market in Uruguay and Brazil – could bring in as much as $50 million reais ($8.9 million) per month.  

The operation that dismantled the illegal cigarette ring took place in late October across Rio Grande do Sul, Paraná and São Paulo, with authorities executing  40 arrest warrants and 56 search warrants, Brazilian media reported.

In addition to charges related to contraband, suspects in the case are being charged with human trafficking, money laundering and environmental crimes.

InSight Crime Analysis

The use of slave labor in the production of illegal cigarettes underscores how the counterfeit trade creates opportunities for criminals to exploit vulnerable populations. Counterfeit economies have been linked to child and forced labor, as well as human trafficking.

Big business in Brazil and in the Southern Cone countries, the illegal cigarette trade also foments crime and lines the pockets of criminal groups.

SEE ALSO: Illegal Cigarettes Increasing Presence in Brazil and Southern Cone

According to the Anti-Contraband Association of Latin America (Asociación Latinoamericana Anticontrabando – ALAC), more than half the cigarettes for sale in Brazil are illegal, with about six out of every ten cigarettes being illegal. Much of the illegal cigarette trade on the Brazilian market is contraband from Paraguay. In 2016, 86 percent of Paraguayan cigarette contraband was reportedly found in Brazil.

In Brazil, illegal cigarettes purportedly move about 10.9 billion reais ($1.9 billion) per year, according to figures published by the news outlet Estadão.

The groups involved in the illegal cigarette trade are often involved in other criminal activities, such as drug trafficking, arms trafficking and money laundering, and the proceeds from contraband cigarette sales may be used to fund other criminal activities.

Brazil’s federal police have stated that the country's criminal gangs, the First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC) and the Red Command (Comando Vermelho – CV), have used proceeds from illegal cigarette sales to buy weapons and ammunition.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

BRAZIL / 4 MAR 2022

An alleged deal between government officials and illegal miners in Brazil’s Amazon led to the latter being provided with weapons…

ARGENTINA / 7 MAY 2021

The cat-and-mouse game of evading law enforcement was taken literally by drug smugglers recently in Panama, who hid cocaine on…

BRAZIL / 9 AUG 2021

A shadowy vigilante death squad operating on the Brazil-Paraguay border is killing supposed thieves and then leaving notes next to…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…

THE ORGANIZATION

World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…

THE ORGANIZATION

‘Ndrangheta Investigation, Exclusive Interview With Suriname President Make Waves

2 DEC 2022

Two weeks ago, InSight Crime published an investigation into how Italian mafia clan the ‘Ndrangheta built a cocaine trafficking network from South America to ‘Ndrangheta-controlled Italian ports. The investigation generated…