Latin America & Caribbean

Brazil $800m money laundering network broken up

US dollars (October 2008) Image copyright AFP
Image caption Brazil is struggling to combat financial crime

A criminal network accused of evading foreign exchange tariffs and laundering more than $800m has been broken up, Brazilian police say.

Eleven people were detained in raids in three states.

Among those held is Allan Simoes Toledo, a former vice president of the state-owned Bank of Brazil.

Correspondents say that Brazil is struggling to combat financial crime especially the smuggling of drugs, weapons, DVDs and computer software.

A recent US state department report said that it was difficult to get comprehensive numbers on money laundering patterns because Brazil does not keep records on convictions or arrests.

Police say that in the latest case, a criminal the network used various tactics to launder cash.

These included the illegal withdrawal of hard currency from Venezuela through bogus imports from Brazilian companies. The only objective was the movement of money.

Correspondents say that the value of the goods was inflated by up to 5,000% so that hard currency transfers from Venezuela, which has strict currency controls, could be by-passed.

Image copyright AFP

The "criminal organisation specialized in evading currency regulations and laundered money in various countries", operating for at least three years, the police said in a statement.

Searches were conducted in several cities in Sao Paulo state, as well as in Curitiba, the capital of Parana state, and Resende, a city in Rio de Janeiro state.

The investigation started in 2014 at the request of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, police said.

They said that the criminal network arranged loans or fake import orders to send the money to Hong Kong, from where it was distributed internationally.

Last month former Petrobras executive Nestor Cervero was sentenced in Brazil to five years in prison for money laundering.

Federal Judge Sergio Moro said prosecutors' evidence suggested he spent bribes on an apartment in Rio de Janeiro.

Cervero was the second Petrobras executive to be convicted amid an ongoing investigation. More than 100 people have been indicted and 50 politicians are under investigation for taking bribes.

Paulo Roberto Costa, former Petrobras director of refining and supply, was sentenced to seven and a half years in April.

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