Brazilian federal police on Wednesday arrested at least 43 people accused of forging and selling permits for the transport of tens of millions of dollars (Euros) worth of illegally cut lumber, authorities said.
BRASILIA, Brazil Brazilian federal police on Wednesday arrested at least 43 people accused of forging and selling permits for the transport of tens of millions of dollars (Euros) worth of illegally cut lumber, authorities said.
"Thank God, it was a success," said Environment Minister Marina Silva. She said the operation, dubbed "Green Gold," intends to "continue combatting illegal practices in the Amazon."
The operation began early Wednesday, when 400 police officers and 27 agents of the government environment agency Ibama began making arrests in the Amazon state of Para. Police had warrants for 53 people in six other states but said more arrests could be made as the operation proceeds.
The environmental group Greenpeace praised the operation but said Brazil must monitor illegal logging in the Amazon on a regular and permanent basis. Similar crackdowns should occur "throughout the year," said Greenpeace spokesman Marcelo Marquesini.
In Operation Curupira in June, federal police arrested 48 environmental agency officials and several independent businessmen for forging permits to transport some US$390 million (euro325 million) worth of lumber, according to the federal police's Web site.
The "Green Gold" operation began in December 2004, two months after police seized more than 1,200 forged permits for the transport of wood and charcoal in another raid on illegal logging in Para, Lacerda said.
Transport permits are issued by Ibama to control logging and the transport of wood and charcoal. Transporting these goods without a permit is illegal.
Forged transport permits can cost 1,800 reals (US$800; euro660), according to the federal police's Web site.
Authorities in the "Green Gold" investigation estimate that in just four cities in Para, 148 companies processed more than 72 million cubic meters (94 million cubic feet) worth of illegally transported lumber, worth some US$29 million (euro23 million).
Federal police said those arrested could face charges of conspiracy and forging official documents and could serve two to six years in prison.
Source: Associated Press