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By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Early this morning (June 29th) the Civil Police in Rio de Janeiro executed Operation Calabar, aimed at the arrest of 96 military police (PM) officers and seventy traffickers and other criminals suspected of being part of a corruption scheme in São Gonçalo, in the metropolitan region of the state.

Rio police, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Brazil News
Secretary of State for Security, Roberto Sá (center) and Military Police commander, Colonel Wolney Dias (right), at a press conference in May, photo by Tomaz Silva/Agência Brasil.

Authorities say it is the largest corruption case in history involving the military police and drug traffickers in Rio de Janeiro. The name Calabar is a reference to Domingos Fernandes Calabar, considered the greatest traitor to Brazil in the country’s history.

According to a report by G1 news, almost a hundred police officers – 96 in all – who have been, and some who are still in the ranks of the 7th BPM (São Gonçalo), are accused by the police of setting up the scheme of receiving pay-offs from drug traffickers that yielded approximately R$1 million per month.

The national news outlet reported that investigations show the PMs acted as “crime retailers” and even offered various services to traffickers. For example, the military police escorted the so-called “bondes” (tram) of criminals from one place to another, and even rented weapons like assault rifles to the traffickers.

One of the conclusions of the investigation is that every week, from Thursday to Sunday, the battalion vehicles circulated through the streets of São Gonçalo exclusively to collect the “drag” which, in slang, is the amount paid by criminals to police officers not to disrupt the drug trade.

The amount charged by the PMs ranged from R$1,500 to R$2,500 for each police team that was on duty. Agents who investigated the scheme estimate that the sale of favors and money collection to traffickers would yield at least R$350,000 per week.

In 2013 the military police in Rio were found to be Brazil’s most corrupt police force, according to the National Victimization Survey, commissioned by the Ministry of Justice and the United Nations Program for Development. That was before the state’s financial crisis led to late payment of already low salaries.

Just last month nine police officers in Rio de Janeiro were arrested working for a faction of the Comando Vermelho (CV, or Red Command) in the Zona Norte (North Zone).

Earlier last month after the federal government announced a public security plan and the creation of a social action task force for Rio de Janeiro, Governor Luiz Fernando Pezão applauded the assistance in the fight against the traffic of arms and drugs.

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