A gang suspected of diverting 7 tons of Mercury for illegal extraction of gold in mines at Amazon is the target of an operation launched on the morning of this Wednesday, 8, by Federal police and Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama).
34 search and seizure warrants were executed in four states. Those under investigation have already blocked R$2.9 billion in assets to guarantee payment for the environmental damage caused by the gang.
Operation Hermes (Hg) II, authorized by the Federal Court of Campinas, investigates crimes against the environment, through the illegal trade and use of mercury, criminal organization and association, reception, smuggling, false documents and money laundering in the States of Amazonas, Mato Grosso, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
The investigation began with a company based in Paulínia, in the interior of São Paulo, which allegedly produced false mercury credits in the Ibama system and sent the substance used to extract gold to mines in the Amazon.
The PF and Ibama did not identify the companies and people involved in the scheme, which made it impossible for the report to contact their defenses. The PF reported that the Paulínia company was closed at the end of last year due to irregularities. The company was authorized to process mercury, but did not have the equipment installed to do so. It was found that the company imported the material without authorization.
The company was the target of the first phase of Operation Hermes, according to the PF. “Based on the analysis of documents and electronic devices, the PF identified an extensive organized chain of individuals and legal entities involved in the illegal scheme of trading mercury and gold extracted from mines in the Amazon and removed seven tons of mercury credit from Ibama’s systems “, the corporation said in a statement.
In the new phase, the PF seeks evidence against the scheme and the final buyers of the mercury, in addition to identifying the assets obtained from the illicit activity.
The investigation showed that the scheme used shell companies, in the name of “foreheads” and “scammers”, to hide the assets. He also mixed legal capital with illicit gains to make identification difficult, using the purchase of real estate to give the money a legal appearance.
The suspects used Viracopos airport, in Campinas, to ship mercury destined for mining in the Amazon.
Ibama collected evidence and materials that will be analyzed and could result in fines, suspension of activities and embargoes of mining areas, in addition to criminal actions. In Alta Floresta (MT), for example, two gold bars weighing more than 500g were seized. The seized material will be analyzed by the Campinas PF. The action mobilized 140 federal police officers and 30 Ibama employees.
Garimpos use metallic mercury in the process of separating gold embedded in rocks and other minerals. Used without due care, the substance is released into the environment and accumulates in river sediments, where it is converted into methylmercury, a highly toxic chemical form, which is absorbed by fish and aquatic organisms.
When consuming fish or coming into contact with mercury, a person may experience loss of vision, chronic headaches, depression and a chance of developing motor problems.
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Where does the PF operation take place?
States and cities in which search and seizure warrants are executed:
- Amazon: Manaus (1 warrant, individual);
- Mato Grosso: Cuiabá (15 warrants, 11 individuals and 4 legal entities; Poconé (6 warrants, 2 individuals and 4 legal entities); Peixoto de Azevedo (3 warrants, 1 individual and 2 legal entities); Cáceres (1 individual warrant ); Alta Floresta (1 individual warrant); Pontes e Lacerda (1 individual warrant); Nossa Senhora do Livramento (1 legal entity warrant); Nova Lacerda (1 legal entity warrant);
- Rio de Janeiro: Duque de Caxias (1 legal entity warrant); Rio, capital (2 warrants, 1 individual and 1 legal entity);
- São Paulo: Capital (1 individual warrant).
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