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 / 6 JAN 2012

A radio reporter may have been killed for angering drug traffickers in Brazil's northeastern state Bahia, where violent crime and…

BRAZIL / 27 OCT 2016

Over the past several years, both Brazil and Guatemala have been rocked by revelations of widespread corruption at the highest…

CONTRABAND / 30 AUG 2013

Venezuela has officially inaugurated a civil-military Joint Task Force to combat smuggling and drug trafficking along the Colombian border, although…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution Met With Uproar

6 MAY 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime launched its latest investigation, Venezuela’s Cocaine Revolution¸ accompanied by a virtual panel on its findings. The takeaways from this three-year effort, including the fact that Venezuela…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…