Skip to main content

An official website of the United States government

December 3, 2021Washington, DC, United StatesHuman Smuggling/Trafficking

US-Brazil coordination leads to takedown of significant human smuggling ring

WASHINGTON – Investigative efforts by Brazilian Federal Police and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), in concert with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division led to eight arrests and the disruption of a major human smuggling ring based in Brazil.

On Dec. 2, as part of Operation Blood Ties and with support from U.S. law enforcement, Brazilian authorities executed 21 search warrants and eight arrests in the states of Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais. The arrests included numerous Lebanese, Bangladeshi nationals, and Brazilian nationals on Brazilian federal charges of human smuggling and operating a criminal enterprise. The human smuggling organization is alleged to be responsible for the illicit smuggling of scores of individuals from Bangladesh and other countries in South Asia into Brazil, and ultimately destined for the United States.

"We are grateful to the Brazilian Federal Police for their continued partnership in combating transnational criminal organizations,” said HSI Brasilia Acting Attaché Patrick Chen. “This successful operation shows the importance of international collaboration when it comes to disrupting human smuggling networks who undermine our immigration system and put countless lives at risk while doing so."

"Transnational criminal organizations involved with human smuggling are a continuing threat to border security, public safety and national security, but today through our strong domestic and international partnerships, we were able to significantly impact their network,” said Scott Brown, special agent in charge for HSI Phoenix. “HSI is fully committed to working with partner nations to identify and dismantle illicit activities and criminal organizations worldwide who pose a threat to our nation."

"Collaborating with our international law enforcement partners is a cornerstone of the Criminal Division’s strategy to combat human smuggling," said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. "The Brazilian Federal Police are valued partners in this effort, and this successful operation highlights the efficacy of our combined efforts in dismantling criminal organizations that threaten border security and endanger the lives of the people they smuggle in the process."

U.S. authorities assisted the Brazilian Federal Police through coordination led by HSI Brasilia and the Extraterritorial Criminal Travel Strike Force (ECT) program, a partnership between the Justice Department, Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section (HRSP), and HSI. The ECT program focuses on human smuggling networks that may present national security or public safety risks, or present grave humanitarian concerns. ECT has dedicated investigative, intelligence and prosecutorial resources to combat this threat. ECT coordinates and receives assistance from other U.S. government agencies and foreign law enforcement authorities.

HSI Brasilia and HSI Phoenix led U.S. investigative efforts, working in concert with the HSI Human Smuggling Unit ECT program, Operation CITADEL, and HSI’s Biometric Identification Transnational Migration Alert Program (BITMAP). The U.S Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs both provided significant legal and other assistance in this matter.

HSI is a directorate of ICE and the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), 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 86 overseas locations in 54 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.

Updated: 12/06/2021