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Brazil nabs notorious drug lord
Drug lord on country's list of most wanted criminals has been captured while on holiday in Sao Paulo.
Last Modified: 28 Jan 2012 23:50
Fabianao Atanazio da Silva, one of Brazil's most wanted drug barons has been captured [procurados.org.br]

SAO PAULO - One of Brazil's most wanted and dangerous drug barons was abruptly captured late Friday while on vacation in a posh mountain town outside of Sao Paulo.

Fabianao Atanazio da Silva, known by his street name of "FB", previously commanded a multi-million dollar drug trade from his base in Vila Cruzeiro shantytown in Rio de Janeiro.  

Atanazio da Silva, 35, narrowly slipped out of police reach in November of 2010, when police special forces and the military invaded his shantytown stronghold.

At the moment of the police incursion, television news helicopters showed live images that showed FB and dozens of his machine gun wielding bodyguards fleeing the slum on motorbikes.

Atanazio da Silva, a member of the infamous Red Command gang in Brazil, was considered to be one of the most dangerous traffickers in all of Rio de Janeiro, and police say he was still commanding a portion of the drug trade in Rio from new, smaller, operational bases.

Long criminal history

In 2002, he escaped from prison through an underground tunnel, and has been a fugitive of justice ever since.

Police say he was the mastermind behind the kidnapping of three Chinese diplomats in Rio de Janeiro in 2008 (they later escaped), and authorities hold him responsible for the shooting down of a police helicopter in October 2009 that killed two.

More recently, it's believed, Atanazio da Silva ordered a wave of attacks at various locations in Rio de Janeiro in 2010.

Despite being on the run, Atanazio da Silva apparently had access to a lot of money, as he was arrested at a luxury home in Campos do Jordao - about 180km from Sao Paulo - a mountain community with boutique luxury stores, fine restaurants, and a popular place for the wealthy from Sao Paulo to spend weekends in the winter months. 

Antenor Lopes Junior, a police investigator involved in the arrest, said the luxury home where he was arrested rents for about $10,000 a month. A BMW was in the garage.

A local television channel reported when questioned by police, the trafficker said he was in Campos do Jordao for vacation, because he liked the restaurants.

Also arrested with Atanazio da Silva was Luis Claudio Serrat Correa, another drug trafficker from Rio who is accused of ordering the killing of a prison director in 2008 as well as various attacks on rival drug factions.

Both were taken into custody without putting up resistance, and police say neither had weapons, drugs or bodyguards with them.

Atanazio da Silva was arrested with well groomed curly hair and wearing a designer jacket, a stark difference from the short cropped hair and much younger appearance in his photo in the police wanted posters.

Police success

Martha Rocha, Rio's civil police chief, told Globo television the arrests are a major victory against drug trafficking.

In the past 11 months, she said, 20 "important" traffickers have been arrested in Rio, eight of which previously worked for Atanazio da Silva and fled with him last year.

In November police also captured Antonio Bomfim Lopes, known as Nem, the commander of drug trafficking from his base in Rio’s Rocinha – the largest shantytown in Brazil.

He was caught while trying to escape a police blockade hidden in the trunk of the car.

As for Atanazio da Silva, on Saturday he was flown to Rio de Janeiro, under heavy police escort, where he will be transferred to a federal penitentiary facing charges of drug trafficking, homicide, kidnapping, extortion, and armed robbery.

Follow Gabriel Elizondo on Twitter @elizondogabriel

Source:
Al Jazeera
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