HomeNewsWhere in the World Will Brazil's Pablo Escobar End Up Next?

The arrest of Sergio Roberto de Carvalho, one of the world’s most prolific and most wanted drug traffickers, in Hungary in late June brought an end to an intercontinental manhunt. But now, what happens next for him and his complex operation?

On July 6, Brazilian police swooped in on a range of targets across Brazil, including in the major cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and the western state of Mato Grosso, to dismantle drug trafficking operations connected to de Carvalho. A number of planes were seized during the raids, as well as two tons of cocaine and assets worth 40 million reais (more than $7 million).

According to Globo, de Carvalho used the private airstrips of large ranches inside Mato Grosso to receive cocaine shipments coming from Peru and Bolivia. The drugs would be stored there and the aircraft’s registration prefixes would be changed illicitly. Then, the planes would be sent to other destinations in Brazil from where the drugs would be moved to Europe.

SEE ALSO: Fake Death Certificates and Vans Full of Cash - Brazil's Pablo Escobar is Finally Arrested

Investigators steadily zeroed in on the Mato Grosso airports after tracking three small planes registered with the same prefix and after a seizure of 1.3 tons of cocaine at the northeastern airport of Fortaleza was linked back to de Carvalho. During that August 2021 seizure, a Turkish pilot and Spanish passenger were arrested after police found the drugs hidden among 24 suitcases on a private jet bound for Belgium.

The dismantling of de Carvalho's network after his arrest on June 21 in Hungary is happening as he fights being extradited to Brazil. In his latest court hearing in Budapest, the man known as the Brazilian Pablo Escobar claimed he was a political prisoner and compared his fate to that of former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

During his June 23 hearing, de Carvalho made the odd claim that he “feared being tried by Brazilian justice in the way this court is accusing me, which coincidentally is the same court and the police officers who investigated President Lula,” according to the Brazilian news site UOL. His lawyer claimed that, as a former military police officer, de Carvalho would be targeted back home. “His extradition would be the same as a death sentence,” she told the court.

The judge extended his detention until August 2 and said the final decision about his extradition would be taken by Hungary’s Justice Minister, Judit Varga. Besides Brazil, Spain and Portugal have also requested his extradition.

InSight Crime Analysis

Three weeks on from his arrest, the race to bring de Carvalho to trial and unpack every detail of his drug trafficking and money laundering network is just beginning.

Since 2017, it is estimated that he moved at least 45 tons of cocaine from Brazilian ports to Spain, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and France, among others.

And while he is currently facing extradition to Brazil, other countries want a piece of him.

SEE ALSO: Paraguay, Brazil and Dubai Figure into Massive Transatlantic Cocaine Ring

In Spain, he was first arrested in 2018 under the name of Paul Wouter, a Surinamese national. He was accused of being the owner of 1.7 tons of cocaine found on a ship. But after paying 200,000 euros and being out on bail, he had a doctor sign a fake death certificate, attesting Wouter had died of COVID-19 and disappeared.

In Portugal, he acquired buildings and homes in Lisbon through a shell company based in Dubai to allegedly launder his money. Furthermore, he reportedly bought one private charter flight company and tried to buy another at the aerodrome of Tires near Lisbon to help move cocaine and cash, according to CNN Portugal. Portuguese investigators eventually found a van containing 12 million euros in cash parked in a Lisbon garage.

Finally, while Dubai does not appear to be seeking his extradition, authorities have focused on dismantling the money laundering arm of de Carvalho’s network. His alleged right-hand man, Marcelo Maghenzani, maintained an office in one of the city’s most expensive neighborhoods. Maghenzani was arrested in May 2021 after allegedly taking care of de Carvalho’s administrative and financial needs.

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.


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.


Related Content

BOLIVIA / 22 SEP 2021

A heist of Brazilian planes that were later discovered in Bolivia has offered a unique look into how drug planes…

CHILE / 1 JUL 2022

Authorities in Iquique and San Antonio, port cities in northern Chile, discovered nearly 475,000 MDMA tablets on various ships departing…


An ambitious mayor, a well-connected deputy mayor, dirty cops, a corrupt judge, and a lot of marijuana. This is the…

About InSight Crime


Join Us This #GivingTuesday in Exposing Organized Crime

24 NOV 2022

For over twelve years, InSight Crime has contributed to the global dialogue on organized crime and corruption. Our work has provided policymakers, analysts, academics, journalists, and the general public with…


Like Crime, Our Coverage Knows No Borders

18 NOV 2022

The nature of global organized crime means that while InSight Crime focuses on Latin America, we also follow criminal dynamics worldwide. InSight Crime investigator Alessandro Ford covers the connections between Latin American and European…


Using Data to Expose Crime

11 NOV 2022

Co-director Jeremy McDermott made a virtual presentation at a conference hosted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The ‘Sixth International Conference on Governance, Crime, and Justice…


InSight Crime ON AIR

4 NOV 2022

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley was interviewed for the podcast The Rosenberg Case: A Tale of Murder, Corruption, and Conspiracy in Guatemala, which explores the potential involvement of then president, Álvaro Colom,…


Work With Us: Research Internship and Editorial Internship

31 OCT 2022

InSight Crime, a think tank dedicated to the study of organized crime and citizen security in the Americas, is seeking interns and investigators to join its dynamic, multinational team.