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Brazil police thwart plot to kidnap, murder government officials

Brazil’s federal police has launched an operation in several states to dismantle a criminal gang that plotted to carry out deadly attacks against police officials and public servants, the Minister of Justice Flavio Dino and other authorities said.

The attacks would have involved murder and extortion through kidnapping, they said on Wednesday following the operation.

About 120 agents carried out 24 search and seizure warrants and 11 arrest warrants in the states of Sao Paulo, Parana, Mato Grosso do Sul and Rondonia, police said in a statement, which did not name the suspects or their intended targets.

“A murder plot against several public officials (among them a senator and a prosecutor) was investigated and identified. Today the Federal Police is making arrests and searches against this gang,” Dino said on Twitter.

Sergio Moro, a former judge and current senator, also took to Twitter to confirm he and his family were targets in the gangs’ plot. Moro said he will make a statement in the Senate this afternoon on the issue.

From 2014 to 2018, Moro was the lead judge in the Carwash trials, which led to the arrest of prominent politicians including Lula, who spent over a year in jail. His conviction was later annulled. 

In 2019, Moro became former President Jair Bolsonaro’s Justice Minister, but left the government in April 2020 and secured a Senate seat last year.

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A government minister told Reuters that the plan was organised by the First Capital Command (PCC) gang and was not politically motivated.

In 2019, Moro had ordered the transfer of PCC leader and 21 other senior gang members to a maximum-security prison.

According to the federal police, the group was plotting to commit “homicides and kidnapping for ransom” in at least five of Brazil’s 26 states.

The targets were “public servants and officials,” it said.

The statement said the attacks planned by the group “could have ocurred simultaneously.”

The PCC has grown rapidly in recent years, and investigators say it has come to control cocaine and gun shipments in Brazil, while also developing increasingly sophisticated methods to launder money.

Last year, federal police investigated a plan by PCC to kidnap federal public servants, aiming to exchange them for the release of Marco Willians Camacho, the gang’s imprisoned leader, according to a report from online media UOL.

READ MORE: Explained: Why Brazil cities are facing wave of gang violence

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