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

COCAINE / 18 MAY 2022

The jungle region known as La Mosquitia in northeast Honduras has been an ideal corridor for international drug trafficking. However,…

BRAZIL / 10 JUN 2021

By undercutting legal streaming apps, militia groups are providing an illegal television service to millions of households in Brazil, earning…

BRAZIL / 7 OCT 2020

It was March 2020, not long after fear of the coronavirus began spreading across the Americas, when several major criminal…

About InSight Crime

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Extensive Coverage of our Chronicles of a Cartel Bodyguard

23 SEP 2022

Our recent investigation, A Cartel Bodyguard in Mexico’s 'Hot Land', has received extensive media coverage.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime, American University Host Illegal Fishing Panel

19 SEP 2022

InSight Crime and the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University discussed the findings of a joint investigation on IUU fishing at a September 9 conference.

THE ORGANIZATION

Impact on the Media Landscape

9 SEP 2022

InSight Crime’s first investigation on the Dominican Republic made an immediate impact on the Dominican media landscape, with major news outlets republishing and reprinting our findings, including in …

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Sharpens Its Skills

2 SEP 2022

Last week, the InSight Crime team gathered for our annual retreat in Colombia, where we discussed our vision and strategy for the next 12 months.  During the week, we also learned how to…

THE ORGANIZATION

Colombia’s Fragile Path to Peace Begins to Take Shape

26 AUG 2022

InSight Crime is charting the progress of President Gustavo Petro’s agenda as he looks to revolutionize Colombia’s security policy, opening dialogue with guerrillas, reforming the military and police, and…