São Paulo, Brazil – On October 13, the Brazilian Army reported that 21 large-caliber machine guns were stolen from a war warehouse inside a barracks in São Paulo. The stolen weapons included thirteen .50 caliber and eight 7.62 caliber machine guns.
These weapons weigh between 4 and 5 kg each, and the .50 caliber ones can down planes, pierce armored vehicles and fire an average of 600 shots per minute. On October 19, the Police recovered eight of the stolen weapons in a community in Rio de Janeiro controlled by Comando Vermelho, one of the largest criminal factions in the country, involved in drug dealing.
No arrests were made during the operation to recover the weapons, and the other 13 remain missing. Brigadier General Maurício Vieira Gama confirmed suspicions that military personnel were involved in the theft of the weapons during a press conference.
According to Gama, “dozens” of military personnel have already served notices to present their defenses in the investigation. The newspaper Folha de S.Paulo reported that at least three soldiers are under investigation.
“All barracks procedures are under review to identify where the lapse occurred, and the soldiers who failed to properly secure the weapons will be held accountable,” said Gama. Those soldiers involved in the theft will be expelled from the Army.
“The Army deems this incident unacceptable and will spare no effort in bringing those responsible to justice and recovering all the stolen weapons as soon as possible. Any illicit activities and misconduct will be met with the full force of the law,” he added.
In addition, the director of the São Paulo War Arsenal, which was responsible for the barracks where the machine guns were stored, Lieutenant Colonel Rivelino Barata de Sousa Batista, was removed from his position but was not expelled from the Force.
What is already known
The warehouse where the weapons were stored had last been inspected on September 6. A subsequent inspection was carried out on October 10, when the Army identified the theft.
The police suspect that the theft occurred around September 7th, which is Brazil’s Independence Day, a time of significant military festivities that may have left the barracks more vulnerable to criminal activity.
Furthermore, the police discovered videos on social media advertising the machine guns for sale. The investigation uncovered evidence that the weapons were being offered to criminal groups in Rio de Janeiro, particularly Comando Vermelho. For example, a .50 caliber machine gun was advertised for R$180,000 (USD$36,000).
These videos had been circulating on social media since September 8, which reinforces the theory that the theft took place on Brazil’s Independence Day.
Following the discovery of the theft, 480 soldiers were confined and couldn’t leave the barracks where the weapons were stored. The purpose of this measure, according to the Army, is to identify military personnel involved in the crime and to keep the battalion ready for potential recovery operations.
The majority have already been released after providing statements. However, 160 soldiers remain confined, with no specified deadline for release.