Brazil’s Federal Police has recently arrested 12 individuals connected to a gang that allegedly used bitcoin to launder “millions of dollars” earned smuggling drugs into Europe, Asia, and Africa.
According to local news outlet Folha de S.Paulo, the gang was busted in an operation dubbed “Antigoon,” in cooperation with the country’s Department of Federal Revenue. Over 100 federal policemen executed 15 arrest warrants and 21 search warrants in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Espírito Santo.
The operation followed a near year-long investigation that saw authorities seize over four tons of cocaine from ports around Brazil. The seized drugs, per Folha de S.Paulo, were doing to be shipped to Europe, Asia, and Africa, and came from Colombia and Bolivia.
Brazil itself was used as “shipping corridor,” through which “millions and millions of dollars” worth of drugs traveled as they ultimately made their way into destination markets. Per Federal Police delegate Carlos Eduardo Thomé, the gang received part of its payments in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to “evade control instruments.”
He said, according to an approximate translation:
“The gang received part of its payments in virtual currencies to make them difficult to track, and to avoid getting their massive and atypical money movements detected.”
How much money the gang made or moved isn’t clear, as the Federal Police refused to reveal that information. Among those detained were businessmen, airport employees, and even truckers.
Osvaldo Scalezi, a Federal Police delegate, revealed the gang is connected to South American drug cartels who will “be a part of other investigations.” Seizures also occurred in Belgium, Italy, and Spain, he added. According to investigators, the gang set up fake companies in order to ship the drugs it had, or hijacked third-party containers to do so.
Cryptocurrencies have notably been becoming increasingly popular in Brazil, for legitimate reasons. Prominent cryptocurrency exchange Huobi is expanding to the country, and is set to face competition from Brazil’s biggest investment firm, XP Investimentos, as it’s working on launching a cryptocurrency exchange.
Moreover, several Brazilian football teams recently inked partnerships with a cryptocurrency startup called Inoovi. The teams are set to use its IVI token in their operations, and add Inoovi’s name to their equipment.