Brazil's Federal Police arrested a businessman believed to be the leader of a criminal group responsible for the logging of 65 square kilometers of rainforest. The suspect is said to have illegally seized the Amazon land in the state of Pará for logging and cattle ranching.
During the raid, 300 grams of raw gold were also confiscated. Police Commissioner Manoel Neto said it had probably been extracted from illegal mines.
The accused, identified as Bruno Heller, was arrested in the municipality of Novo Progresso, in the southern part of the Amazon state of Pará in a police operation against fraudulent land registrations for deforestation.
The police investigation indicated that the businessman would be the leader of a criminal group that controls 210 square kilometers of land in the Amazon bordering indigenous reserves and environmental protection areas.
The criminal gang linked to the suspect fraudulently registered land in the name of third parties, mainly family members, and then cut down the trees and vegetation to raise cattle. Thus they exploited the resources and protected themselves from criminal and administrative procedures, it was explained.
The courts confiscated 16 farms and 10,000 head of cattle from the accused. In addition, they ordered the seizure of R$ 116 million (US$ 23 million) for the natural resources extracted.
Heller's arrest coincides with the publication of new data on the deforestation of the Brazilian rainforest. Greater control by the government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva reduced logging but it is not enough. Between August 2022 and July 2023, the Amazon lost 7,952 square kilometers of vegetation, with the greatest devastation occurring in the Brazilian with 72.8%. The main cause of deforestation in the region was drought and illegal activities.
Logging devastates the local flora and threatens the fauna. Deforestation is carried out in public areas without control and in private areas that exceed the permitted limits.
In an unrelated police raid also in the State of Pará, businessman and land owner André Texeira was arrested for his alleged involvement in a plot to kill Lula da Silva. According to witnesses, Texeira had commented while buying drinks at a store in Santarem that he intended to kill Lula during an official visit.
Texeira, who is also suspected of illegally searching for gold in the Amazon rivers, told the Police that he participated in Jan. 8 riots in Brasilia when followers of former President Jair Bolsonaro (2019-2022) stormed the headquarters of the three branches of government.
He also admitted to having financed for 60 days the demonstrations in front of the Eighth Engineering Battalion of the Army in Santarem to ask the Armed Forces to stage a coup d'état against Lula.