Brazilian police arrest five more in connection with killing of British journalists Phillips House and Brazilian Indigenous activist Bruno Pereira said on Saturday that one of the suspects in custody is most likely the leader of an illegal fishing mafia based in the Amazon region.
Although the police gave few details, three of those detained He was wanted in operations near Brazil’s borders with Peru and Colombia for helping to bury the bodies of Phillips and Pereira.
All three relate to Amarildo da Costa Oliveira, one of three people charged with double murder in a case that shocked the world last month and underscored growing insecurity in the densely forested region.
Phillips, 57, and Pereira, 41, disappeared in the western Javari valley Brazil On June 5, Phillips had arranged to publish a book on sustainable development at the end of a tour. Phillips has written for The Observer and The Guardian, as well as other publications.
A former official of Brazil’s indigenous agency, Pereira knew the area well and was helping the British in their search.
The men were ambushed early one morning as they were sailing their boats towards the Itaquai river. Police believe the attackers shot them dead and then carried their bodies into the woods and buried them in the hastily dug grave.
However, two of the suspects confessed to the crime and took the police to the place where they buried their bodies.
Police believe the killers were concerned that Pereira had photographs and evidence that they were fishing in prohibited areas for endangered species, including turtles and the pirarucu, one of the world’s largest freshwater fish.
A single pirarucu can cost up to $1,000 in markets in Brazil and Colombia, and police believe criminal mafias partner with poor local fishermen to hunt animals in Indigenous reserves, where access to foreigners is often prohibited.
They arrested a man last month for using false identity documents, and on Saturday they said they identified him as Ruben Dario da Silva Villar, known as “Colombia”.
Police “found strong indications that he is the leader and financier of an armed crime syndicate dedicated to illegal fishing activities in Colombia’s Javari valley” [and] “It is responsible for the sale and export of large quantities of fish,” the federal police said in a statement.
According to local media reports, Silva Villar gave boats, motors and bait to local fishermen.
Indigenous activists in the region greeted the news with “great joy” and said it was “the beginning of justice”.
A lawyer for the Univaja Indigenous organization said the arrests, and particularly those in Colombia, confirmed their original thesis – that the murders were not carried out by employees alone, but with the cooperation or orders of a local mafia.
“A criminal organization has been operating in the Javavari valley for a long time, and today’s investigations, operations and arrests only reinforce that,” said Eliesio Marubo, Univaja’s lawyer. “So we feel represented. This is the beginning of justice for our friends who were brutally murdered.”
This reinforces the need for the state to participate in an area that has been abandoned by the state,” he said.
The investigation continues.
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