After an investigation that lasted one year and a half, the Brazilian federal police unleashed a concerted raid this Tuesday, November 6, using 280 federal agents in three states to break a criminal scheme concocted with the help of Swiss financial institutions to launder Brazilian money and send it overseas.
The plan helped individuals and companies from Brazil to funnel their funds into untraceable bank accounts in Switzerland through a method known as dólar-cabo (cable dollar).Â
Operation Kaspar II carried out 21 warrants of arrest and 44 search and seizure orders in the states of São Paulo, Bahia and Amazonas.
Among the 19 people arrested there were partners and executives of big Brazilian companies as well as three officials from foreign banks doing business in Brazil. Among those detained were Swiss banks UBS and Credit Suisse officials as well as an executive of US-based insurance giant AIG.
According to a note from Brazil's Federal Police, the plot was "a criminal scheme whereby banks opened numbered and coded accounts into which Brazilian clients sent money without declaring its origin using the intermediation of doleiros (illegal dollar dealers)."Â
Brazilian authorities say that some of those implicated in the plan used doleiros to pay overseas suppliers through a stratagem in which the imported products were under invoiced.
The temporary arrest orders carried out by the Brazilian agents are valid for five days renewable for another five, but those caught by authorities might get up to 40 years in prison if they are condemned for all the crimes they are being charged with.
They are being accused of fraudulent management, tax evasion and embezzlement, money laundering, gang formation and operating a financial institution without authorization from Brazil's Central Bank. The police intend to ask for the preventive prison of some
of those caught.
The Federal police estimate that the money sent to banks in Switzerland and other European countries together with the under invoicing of merchandise bought overseas by Brazilians represents 1 billion Brazilian reais (US$ 570 million) in tax evasion during the last 18 months, the time the investigation lasted.
In the last six months alone, says Ricardo Andrade Saadi, the police chief who coordinated the Kaspar II operation, the scheme was siphoning between 6 million reais (US$ 3.4 million) and 7 million reais (US$ 4 million) out of the country, every month. According to Saadi, the scheme was done in collusion with high officials of the foreign banks involved.
The operation seized 6 million reais and about US$ 600,000 in cash. Bank accounts containing about 2 million reais (US$ 1.1 million) have been blocked by the Brazilian authorities. Kaspar II, was the third police operation focusing on illegal money remittance abroad. The other two were called Operação Suíça (Swiss Operation) and Kaspar I.
Brazilian authorities say they cannot name those being probed because the whole legal process is a confidential in camera proceeding. According to unofficial sources, however, Ornare, a luxury furniture factory, Le Postiche, a leather goods company and Gold, a key manufacturer, are among the companies being investigated by the police.