HSI, Brazil Federal Police execute large-scale disruption of international arms trafficking organization
WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Brazil Federal Police partnership resulted in the binational arrests of key members of a major Transnational Criminal Organization (TCO) responsible for international weapons trafficking, and numerous other transnational crimes. On June 1, four arrest warrants and eight search and seizure warrants were carried out in the cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro by Brazilian authorities, while one arrest warrant for a U.S.-based TCO member was simultaneously executed in Orlando, Florida by HSI Miami and HSI Orlando as part of Operation Iron Tire.
The Operation Iron Tire arrests were possible due to extensive coordination and cooperation efforts between U.S. and Brazilian law enforcement. The investigation uncovered a shipment of hundreds of firearm accessories from the United States to Brazil by the TCO, passing through the International Airports in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo to supply the largest and most dangerous transnational criminal organization in Brazil, the Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC). From their origins as a Brazilian prison gang, the PCC expanded rapidly into a sophisticated international criminal network extending throughout the Americas and Europe, engaging in human and drug smuggling/trafficking, public corruption, money laundering, extortion, kidnapping, and murder for hire. The weapons trafficking case is the first documented instance of PCC members procuring firearms and weapons accessories directly from the United States to Brazil. The Brazilian investigation uncovered evidence that the smuggled items has been used in a violent confrontation with law enforcement in the State of Sao Paulo that resulted in multiple fatalities. The weapons and accessories were also purchased by a drug faction that currently dominates the narcotics trade in the Rocinha area of Rio de Janeiro.
On March 19, 2019, the Brazil Customs and Revenue Service at the Rio de Janeiro International Airport seized a total of five packages containing fifty-five high-capacity magazines for 9 mm pistols. Subsequently, the Brazil Federal Police and HSI initiated parallel criminal investigations in Brazil and the United States to identify, investigate, and prosecute those responsible for these and other shipments, originating in Kissimmee, FL, Orlando, FL, and Tucson, AZ. One of the shipments contained twenty-seven AK-47 7.62 caliber rifle magazines concealed in a spare tire, resulting in the Operation name “Iron Tire.” Several additional operations took place in the United States, including a March 2019 seizure in Miami of a spare tire containing thirty rifle magazines bound for Brazil. These seizures were the result of real-time information exchange between Brazil Federal Police, HSI Special Agents, and HSI Task Force Officers assigned to Brazil, Miami, and Tucson, AZ.
HSI Brasilia and HSI Miami led U.S. investigative efforts in Operation Iron Tire, with significant assistance from HSI Tucson, HSI Orlando, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Miami, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Miami. Brazilian investigative efforts were spearheaded by Brazil Federal Police Airport and Firearms Trafficking Groups based in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, with significant assistance from the Brazil Customs and Revenue Service and the Federal Prosecution Service’s Organized Crime Unit (GAECO) in Rio de Janeiro.
As the primary federal law enforcement agency responsible for investigating and enforcing U.S. export laws, HSI Special Agents around the world are committed to combating illegal firearms, weapons accessories and munitions smuggling activities that fuel violence both domestically and abroad. HSI fulfills this commitment by establishing strong partnerships with foreign and domestic counterparts, in addition to leveraging the agency’s extensive legal authorities and expertise in conducting illegal export and international contraband smuggling investigations.
HSI is a directorate and the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 Special Agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.