Brazilian Federal Police recently arrested 12 people for using Bitcoin to launder their multi-million dollar earnings from the sale of illicit drugs to Europe, Asia and Africa.
According to reports, the suspects were arrested in an operation called “Antigoon,” in partnership with the country’s Department of Federal Revenue. More than 100 federal police personnel were involved in the execution of 15 arrest warrants and 21 search warrants in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Espírito Santo.
The operation came after almost a yearlong investigation that saw authorities confiscate more than four tons of cocaine from ports across Brazil. Reports say that the confiscated drugs were being smuggled to Europe, Asia and Africa and were originating from Colombia and Bolivia.
Police say Brazil was used as a “shipping corridor” through which “millions and millions of dollars” worth of drugs were smuggled to destination markets overseas. According to Federal Police delegate Carlos Eduardo Thomé, in an effort to “evade control instruments,” the gang of suspects received part of their pay in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
Speaking further, Carlos Eduardo Thomé said, “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.”
It is still uncertain how much money the arrested individuals made or transferred, as the Federal Police did not disclose this information. Among those arrested were businessmen, airport employees and some truckers.
Osvaldo Scalezi, another Federal Police delegate noted that the suspects are linked to South American drug cartels and will therefore “be part of other investigations” that federal police will conduct. He went on to disclose that some of the drug seizures happened in Belgium, Italy and Spain. Investigations have disclosed that the group created front companies to be able to smuggle the drugs.