Brazil Arrests Man Suspected of Laundering Nearly US$2.66 Billion

Published: 11 January 2024

Brazil Police copy

The Federal Police of Brazil arrested the individual on Sunday at São Paulo International Airport. He was heading to Dubai. (Photo: Polícia Federal, License)

By Lieth Carrillo

The Federal Police of Brazil arrested a person suspected of laundering large amounts of money from drug trafficking and other crimes through crypto assets. The illegal business saw more than US$2.6 billion flow through the accounts of shell companies the suspect controlled.

Based on the report, the individual received dirty money in Brazil and exchanged it for crypto and made it travel through the accounts of several shell companies. One of those companies  saw transactions worth $285 million pass through its account in just 10 months. None of it was declared to tax authorities.

The investigation that led to the arrest of this individual was the result of a wider 2022 operation targeting tax evasion, money laundering and criminal association linked to the trade in crypto assets between 2017 and 2021. Operation Colossus focused on the cities of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais and other states in Brazil.

By the time Operation Colossus was developing, the now arrested suspect had moved to Dubai, from where he was pursuing his illicit activities out of sight of the Brazilian authorities, according to the investigation.

"There is also evidence that, even living abroad, he continued to commit crimes, having identified a bank account belonging to a company owned by an intermediary and used by him to receive and transfer funds," the Federal Police of Brazil stated.

The individual was arrested at São Paulo International Airport, just as he was trying to board a plane to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The authorities ordered his preventive detention due to the reiteration of the crime, the seriousness of the conduct and the fact that he was living outside the country. Search and seizure warrants were also successfully served against him and his partner.