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Brazil captures drug lord who used plastic surgery to hide from police

Luiz Carlos da Rocha , nicknamed White Head, had undergone plastic surgery to successfully dodge police while continuing to run his international drug business.

world Updated: Jul 02, 2017 22:01 IST
AP, Rio de Janerio
Brazil,Brazilian drug lord,Drug cartel in Brazil
Handout picture released by Brazilian Federal Police on July 2, showing a three portrait sequence of drug kingpin Luiz Carlos da Rocha, considered one of the "drug barons" of Brazil.(AFP Photo)

Brazilian police say they have captured a major drug lord known as “White Head” who used plastic surgeries to help him evade authorities for nearly three decades.

Police say Luiz Carlos da Rocha was arrested Saturday in the state of Mato Grosso. He’s been sentenced by Brazilian courts to more than 50 years in prison for international drug trafficking and money laundering.

Police say Rocha’s cartel produced cocaine in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia and exported it to Europe and the United States via Brazil and Paraguay. In Brazil alone, police estimate Rocha brought in 5 tones of cocaine per month.

Police also seized approximately $10 million worth of the drug lord’s assets, including planes, properties and luxury cars.

The name of the operation was “Spectrum,” referring in Portuguese to the phantom-like nature of a fugitive “who lived discreetly and in the shadows... evading police attempts for almost 30 years,” the police statement said.

Police said that in addition to using extreme violence da Rocha was being protected by forces with heavy caliber weapons.

When narcotics police homed in on their suspect in Mato Grosso, agents studied “photographic data with the old facial characteristics of Luiz Carlos da Rocha and the current identity photograph of Vitor Luiz de Moraes, and concluded that Luiz Carlos da Rocha and Vitor Luiz are the same person.”

The captured fugitive is accused of having headed an enormous cocaine network, which included production in the jungles of Bolivia, Colombia and Peru, and continued through to distribution on the continent and as far away as the United States and Europe.

He is also accused of being one of the main suppliers to the violent drug traffickers that hold sway in large areas of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

Cocaine would be flown in small planes from manufacturing points via Venezuelan airspace to remote farms in western Brazil. From there it would be shipped in secret compartments in specially adapted lorries to Brazil’s big cities or for shipment abroad, police said.

Da Rocha is believed to have amassed $100 million in personal wealth in the form of vehicles, property and deposits in offshore bank accounts, which authorities said “will be the subject of the second phase of Operation Spectrum.”

While ruthless drug dealers are a constant and visible presence in Brazil’s favelas, the wholesale -- and far more lucrative -- end of the trade is largely hidden.

Less than a week ago, however, there was a dramatic glimpse into the shadowy business when an air force jet fired a warning shot to force a small plane to land in Goias state in western Brazil. The suspect aircraft was found to contain half a ton of cocaine.

First Published: Jul 02, 2017 21:56 IST