Brazil’s Federal Police on Monday broke up a band accused of laundering some 10 billion reais (about $4.35 billion) in illegally-earned funds in an operation that mobilized some 400 agents in seven different Brazilian states, authorities said.
The operation, dubbed “Lava-jato,” was aimed at capturing 28 members of the group, the majority of whom were arrested Monday morning, charged with being part of a money-laundering network, tax evasion, corruption, smuggling precious stones and drug trafficking, among other crimes.
The amount of funds moved by the criminal group was calculated by Federal Police with the help of the Financial Activities Monitoring Council, or Coaf, the entity responsible for keeping an eye out for suspicious operations in the Brazilian financial system.
The members of the network are accused of using laundromats and gas stations as fronts for offering clandestine money exchange services and sending funds abroad.
Among those arrested is the owner of a Brasilia gas station charged with being one of the heads of the organization, who evidently had links with exchange houses in the capital.
According to the Federal Police communique, the organization operated in 17 cities in the states of Parana, Santa Catarina, Sao Paulo, Rio Grande do Sul, Mato Grosso and Rio de Janeiro, as well as in the Federal District of Brasilia.
Besides signing the arrest warrants, the judge responsible for mounting the operation ordered the seizure of luxury real estate, three hotels, vehicles and jewelry, as well as the freezing of dozens of bank accounts and other financial assets.