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Brazil police make new move against organized crime gang's finance arm

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RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Brazilian police on Tuesday carried out a major operation against the First Capital Command (PCC) gang, in the latest attempt to try to hobble the country’s most powerful and sophisticated organized crime group.

Brazil’s federal police said in a statement it had executed 30 arrest warrants, with 180 officers taking part in the arrests. The operation is aimed at dismantling a PCC unit that helps manage the group’s finances.

Police also carried out 55 search warrants and blocked 400 bank accounts tied to the organization, which were used to buy weapons, drugs and lodging for family members near jails where PCC members were imprisoned.

The PCC faction in charge of finances was based in a jail in the southern state of Parana, police said.

“The payments … were passed to the criminal organization through various bank accounts in an intricate fashion with measures taken to make tracking more difficult,” police said in the statement.

“The investigation indicates that approximately 1 million reais ($253,000) was circulated per month in the various bank accounts used to benefit crime.”

Tuesday’s operation was the latest attempt to bring the PCC to heel. The gang has grown rapidly in recent years, and investigators say it has come to control cocaine and gun shipments into Brazil, while also developing increasingly sophisticated methods to launder money.

In February, Brazil moved several jailed leaders of the PCC into federal jails, in a bid to curtail the power they wielded from behind bars in less secure state prisons.

Many of Brazil’s prisons are effectively run by organized crime. President Jair Bolsonaro, who took power in January, has made cracking down on violence, including by retaking control of prisons, a major issue of his presidency.

(Reporting by Pedro Fonseca; Writing by Gram Slattery; Editing by Susan Thomas)

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