RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazilian police dismantled a ring that supplied U.S. rifles to drug traffickers, authorities said Wednesday.
The operation, carried out with support from Interpol and U.S. authorities, involved the arrest of five people in Brazil and two others in the United States, Federal Police said in a statement.
The ring bought guns in the United States and shipped them to Brazil from Miami, hiding the weapons inside mattresses.
Entering Brazil through the port of Santos, the containers were labeled as the furniture and personal effects of Brazilians living abroad, according to the police statement.
The contraband rifles were sold to criminal outfits operating in the states of Minas Gerais, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
The smuggling ring’s customers included the gangs that control the drug trade in the principal “favelas,” or shantytowns, of Rio de Janeiro city.
The dismantling of the ring led to the seizure of 22 rifles and an “enormous quantity of munitions,” Federal Police said. Investigators estimate the group supplied at least 500 rifles to drug gangs in the Rio favelas of Rocinha and Vidigal.
All five arrests in Brazil took place in Governador Valadares, a town in Minas Gerais famous for having a large number of expatriates living in the United States.
The Brazilian suspects include prominent landowners and merchants, media accounts said. EFE