Brazil police target group laundering cash from illegal gold

Brazil’s Federal Police performed eight searches Friday targeting money laundering derived from illegal gold mining in Roraima state, where Indigenous Yanomami people are in a health crisis.

A police statement said the criminal organization targeted in the raids carried out transactions worth 64 million reais ($12 million) over a two-year period.

While this is a fraction of the total value of gold mined in Yanomami territory during that time, the police operation represents part of the fresh effort by authorities to crack down on the illicit activity.

The federal government recently declared a health emergency for the Yanomami people, who are experiencing malnourishment and disease after their waterways were poisoned by mercury used to separate gold.

As many as 20,000 prospectors invaded Yanomami territory during the administration of former far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who encouraged such activity and sought to legalize mining on Indigenous lands.

This week, the military and other federal agencies now under the direction of leftist President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva began expeling miners, while also blowing up their boats, planes and a helicopter, as permitted by law.

Members of the criminal organization raided Friday used front companies to make its financial operations appear legitimate, police said. All are based in Roraima state.

Police said suspects received money transfers from several financiers in Brazil, then passed that money along to people and companies in Roraima to purchase illegal gold.

Copyright © 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up