Unprecedented Brazilian operation supported by INTERPOL breaks up wildlife smuggling network

13 March 2009

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Brazil’s largest-ever nationwide operation against the illegal hunting and trade in wildlife, led by the Brazilian Federal Police in co-operation with INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Programme, has to date resulted in 72 arrests and the seizure of thousands of illegally-held wildlife specimens.

Spanning nine Brazilian states and involving 450 Federal Police Officers, with police teams still on the streets conducting arrests and seizures, Operation Oxossi – which was launched on 11 March – has so far resulted in 102 arrest warrants being issued and 140 search warrants served, as well as more than 3,500 wildlife specimens seized.

At the request of Brazilian authorities, Red Notices for internationally wanted persons have also been issued by INTERPOL for six individuals.

INTERPOL’s secure I-24/7 global police communications system and its ability to facilitate multi-country law enforcement co-operation proved invaluable to the Brazilian officers conducting the investigation. The co-operation between the Brazilian Federal Police and the Czech Environmental Inspectorate - which was an important part of the Operation following the reported involvement of Czech nationals in the illegal trade - was facilitated by the INTERPOL General Secretariat and its National Central Bureau (NCB) in Prague.

An agent from the Czech Environmental Inspectorate was also assigned to work with the Brazilian Federal Police and played a vital role in transcribing and evaluating evidence.

“Operation Oxossi has helped turn the hunters into the hunted, and this is down to close police co-operation between Brazilian police authorities, INTERPOL’s National Central Bureau in Prague and the INTERPOL General Secretariat,” said Brazilian Federal Police Commissioner Jorge Barbosa Pontes, the head of INTERPOL’s National Central Bureau in Brasilia.

With current investigations unveiling an international smuggling network transporting wildlife from Brazil to a number of European countries, David Higgins of INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Programme said that the Operation demonstrated that the fight against environmental and wildlife crime was not just a national concern but an international issue too.

“Environmental crime is clearly an international problem which calls for international law enforcement co-operation. The success of Operation Oxossi in Brazil demonstrates the results that can be obtained when the fight against wildlife and environmental crime is taken to the frontline as part of concerted international action using global law enforcement networks and resources,” he said.

“We must all strive to ensure that any failure to act today does not result in the loss of a species or an environment tomorrow,” Mr Higgins warned.

Police said that the gang specialized in trafficking blue macaws, a critically endangered species that might have disappeared from the wild in a short time, had the group’s activities continued. Profits from this illegal trade are high, with a single egg of a blue macaw fetching up to EUR 3,000 on the European market.

INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Programme was launched in 1992 and has grown significantly since, expanding areas of co-operation with many national, international and non-governmental agencies across its 187 member countries.