Brazil prison gang runs $60 million operation

WEB_PHOTO_Brazil_Prison_111013

A group of prisoners remain behind bars during the rebellion at the Pedrinhas prison in Sao Luizin, northern Brazil. The uprising lasted two days and left 18 dead.

SAO PAULO - Brazil&39;s powerful PCC prison gang runs a nationwide criminal business worth $60 million a year with operations extending into neighboring Bolivia and Paraguay, according to an official report disclosed Friday.

The so-called First Command of the Capital, whose leaders operate from jails in Sao Paulo state, is present in 22 of the country&39;s 26 states as well as in the Federal District (Brasilia).

It is regarded as one of the country&39;s top crime syndicates.

The daily Estado de Sao Paulo, citing a report drawn up by Sao Paulo state prosecutors, said the PCC was a huge organization with various divisions to coordinate the drug trade, commit crimes, provide legal defense to its members and manage its finances.

The syndicate, which has more than 11,000 members, including 6,000 behind bars, also operates in Paraguay and Bolivia, it added.

The Sao Paulo prosecutor&39;s office would not comment on the report.

Estado said the prosecutors wants 175 PCC members currently free to be incarcerated. They are also demanding tougher jail conditions for 32 others currently held, including the entire leadership, in Presidente Venceslau in Sao Paulo state.

The paper said the gang relies on a "board of directors" made up of criminals not in detention to run day-to-day operations.

The report grew out of more than three years of investigation and was based on documents, witnesses&39; testimonies and wiretaps.

Late last year, the Justice Ministry produced a similar report on PCC activities.

The PCC was blamed for a wave of violence that left more than 300 people dead, including some police officers, late last year.

In 2006, the gang also went on a rampage in Sao Paulo, attacking police stations and public buildings.

According to human rights groups, the PCC assault, which triggered a wave of police reprisal attacks in which scores of civilians suspected of criminal backgrounds were gunned down, came in large part in response to a series of organized shakedowns by police.

The PCC was set up in 1993 by jailed narco-traffickers in Sao Paulo.