Police targets group suspected of selling 43,000 weapons to major criminal factions in Brazil

By December 12, 2023

São Paulo, Brazil – The Federal Police have launched a major operation against a group suspected of selling around 43,000 weapons to the two largest criminal factions in Brazil — Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC) in São Paulo and Comando Vermelho (CV) in Rio de Janeiro. During the operation, 2,325 weapons were seized from a gang-controlled warehouse, valued at R$26 million (USD $5.2 million).

According to the investigation, a Paraguayan-based company imported thousands of rifles and pistols manufactured in Croatia, Turkey, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia. In Paraguay, the serial numbers of the weapons were scratched off to hinder tracing by authorities.

The weapons were then passed on to drug trafficking groups operating on the border with Brazil, and then on to criminal factions in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The Federal Police believe that between 2019 and 2022, the group generated R$1.2 billion (USD $240 million) through the sale of 43,000 weapons.

On December 5, police executed 54 search warrants in Brazil and Paraguay, and arrested 19 suspects for involvement in the scheme. One of the targets is Argentine Diego Hernan Dirísio, considered by the Federal Police as the most prolific arms smuggler in South America. He has not been located and is considered a fugitive.

According to the police, Dirísio allegedly owns the company that imported the weapons from Europe to supply Brazilian factions. The investigation also raised suspicions of the involvement of Paraguayan military personnel, including General Arturo Javier González Ocampo, former Chief of the General Staff of the country’s Air Force.

He allegedly received requests to intervene on behalf of Dirísio’s company with Paraguay’s military agency overseeing arms control. Ocampo was also a target of the operation and was arrested at his home last week. At his home, police found weapons and large amounts of money.

Justice Minister Flávio Dino highlighted the importance of the operation in combating organized crime in Brazil. “It is only possible to truly overcome organized crime by replacing an inefficient model, which is purely demagogic, with indiscriminate shootings, and addressing the root cause, which is to cut off the flow of arms, drugs, and money laundering,” he said.

“This operation will affect the logistics of the two largest Brazilian factions, the main recipients of these illegal weapons. So the impact is very strong,” added the minister during a press conference.

Weapons and money seized in the operation. Image courtesy of Federal Police