Federal police in Brazil have announced a large-scale operation to disrupt a criminal gang accused of plotting the kidnapping and assassination of government officials in at least five states.
In a statement released on Wednesday morning, the police said it had dispatched about 120 officers to serve 24 search-and-seizure warrants and 11 arrest warrants to individuals in states including Mato Grosso do Sul, Rondonia, Sao Paulo and Parana.
The police also alleged that the planned attacks were part of a coordinated campaign, intended to occur simultaneously. Justice Minister Flavio Dino announced on Twitter that a senator and a prosecutor were among those targeted.
Two public officials, husband and wife Sergio Moro and Rosangela Moro, also wrote on social media that they were intended victims.
“I congratulate the police and agents involved in Operation Sequaz, which dismantled an organised crime scheme to assassinate authorities and their families, including my husband [Sergio Moro] and my family,” Rosangela Moro, a member of Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies, wrote.
In a Twitter thread, she expressed relief over Wednesday’s announcement and said she was prepared to pursue even tougher laws against organised crime in Brazil.
“Retaliation, in crime or politics, cannot persist. Today it’s us. Tomorrow it could be you or your children,” she wrote.
Her husband, Senator Sergio Moro, had previously served as a federal judge presiding over corruption trials, including the “Operation Car Wash” scandal, which saw former President and prominent left-wing politician Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison.
The “Operation Car Wash” case propelled Moro to celebrity in his home state of Parana. In 2017, Moro had found Lula guilty of corruption and money laundering for allegedly accepting a beachfront property as a bribe, as well as upgrades to the apartment.
The corruption charges were later annulled in 2021, on the basis that Moro had colluded with prosecutors. That cleared the way for Lula to run for the presidency again, and in 2022, he won a third term, beating far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro in a run-off.
Moro ultimately resigned from his position as judge. While in office, Bolsonaro appointed him as justice minister, though their relationship ultimately soured. In 2022, Moro won a seat in Brazil’s Senate.
In his reaction to the alleged criminal plot, Moro indicated on Twitter that the First Capital Command, or PCC, was involved. The PCC is one of the largest criminal organisations in Brazil, founded in Sao Paulo and has been involved in international drug trafficking, money laundering and clashes with police.
Moro added he would issue a statement to the Senate about the criminal plot later on Wednesday.
On her own Twitter account, his wife Rosangela speculated that the couple and other officials had been targeted “because they had the courage, with their work, to face organised crime”.
“You can’t negotiate with a bandit,” she added.