By Maria Lopez Conde, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The governor of São Paulo Geraldo Alckmin underlined his intention to create a task force dedicated to an around-the-clock investigation of the PCC (Primeiro Comando da Capital), considered to be the country’s largest criminal group. The move comes just three days after the São Paulo Public Ministry accused 175 people of being a part of the outfit that acts both inside and outside of the state’s prisons.
The investigations will focus on links between police officers and PCC members revealed during an unprecedented, three-year investigation conducted by the state’s Public Ministry announced Friday. The result was the formal accusation of 175 individuals last week. First created in 1993 by inmates as a protection racket to demand better conditions in São Paulo’s notoriously overcrowded prison system, the PCC evolved into a criminal network with a countrywide reach.
“If the participation of any public servant is proven, he will be severely punished,” said Alckmin on Monday. Monitored phone conversations revealed gang members discussed payments of kickbacks to police officers and had crafted a plan to assassinate the governor.
The report, created by prosecutors from the Special Acting Group on Crime Repression (Gaeco) who compiled phone conversations, documents, seized weapons and drugs, as well as witness accounts, paints a never-before-seen picture of Brazil’s largest criminal gang.
According to the investigation, the group, present in 22 Brazilian states, as well as in Bolivia and Paraguay, operates in ninety percent of prison facilities in the state of São Paulo. Gaeco believes that the PCC’s revenue reaches R$8 million a month through drug trafficking and another R$2 million in lottery houses and its members’ contributions, as newspaper O Estado de São Paulo, who’s reporters gained access to the report, published.
The main economic activity of the PCC is drug trafficking, with a sophisticated two-tier system based on product quality and points of sale across the country. The group primarily sells cocaine and marijuana from Bolivia and Paraguay.
Gaeco revealed that the group owns hundreds of rifles and about R$7 million worth of real estate. The PCC has around 6,000 members behind bars and 1,600 free members in São Paulo. Close to 3,582 members, including active and inactive, have been identified in other Brazilian states.
“The PCC is a reality that has to be faced and that is what we are doing. We are working hard in the area of intelligence, collecting information in an integrated faction to guarantee normalcy,” said Fernando Grella, São Paulo state’s Public Safety Secretary, in a press release earlier this week.
The state government said it was aware of the Gaeco investigation, but that it had not yet received the report and had made an official request to see the evidence on Monday.
Governor Alckmin also said on Monday that he will not be increasing his security detail as a result of the report. He did, however, reiterate his commitment to offering concessions to companies interested in providing cell phone blocking services around prisons to thwart communication between jailed criminals and their free counterparts.
In 2012, the PCC was responsible for a bloody reprisal to a police crackdown on drug trafficking in São Paulo. Both police officers and civilians were targeted by gunmen linked to the organization. At least 154 were killed between October 24th and November 12th during 2012. The group first gained international notoriety in 2006 when it allegedly orchestrated a series of deadly attacks that left 200 dead using smuggled mobile phones and pen-drives.