Argentine arms smuggler wanted for providing weapons to Brazil gangs

International manhunt is on for Argentine arms smuggler Diego Dirisio who helped funnel at least 43,000 weapons from Europe to Brazil’s most powerful gangs

  • Diego Dirísio is said to be the biggest arms smuggler in South America
  • He allegedly used a company he owns to purchase and import about 43,000 weapons from Europe that were sold to Brazilian criminal organizations
  • At least 13 people were arrested in Paraguay on Tuesday and an additional five arrests took place in Brazil; Dirísio and his wife were on the run as of Wednesday

An international manhunt in underway for an Argentine arms dealer who allegedly purchased at least 43,000 weapons from Europe that were later provided to two of Brazil’s most power criminal organizations.

Authorities in Paraguay and Brazil allege that Diego Dirísio, through his Paraguayan-based company International Auto Supply, bought $242 million worth of guns, rifles, machine guns and ammunition from firearm companies in Croatia, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Turkey and had them shipped to Paraguay.

A federal investigation dubbed Operation Dakovo has led to several arrests and seizures of weapons, but so far Dirisio remains on the lam.  

Brazil’s Federal Police said that from November 2019 to December 2022, Dirísio’s company purchased 7,720 guns from Croatia, 2,056 rifles were purchased from the Czech Republic. 

An additional 5,000 rifles, pistols and revolvers were purchased from Turkey. There were also 1,200 pistols purchased from a factory in Slovenia.

Argentine businessman Diego Dirísio is wanted by Paraguay and Brazil authorities for allegedly using his company to purchase weapons from Europe during a three-year period and importing the firearms to Paraguay before they were sold to Brazilian criminal organizations 

The weapons were then sold to Brazilian criminal factions, Primeiro Comando da Capital and Comando Vermelho. Most of the weapons were destined to members in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.

‘The weapons were imported from Europe to Paraguay, where they were defaced and resold to intermediary groups operating on the Brazil-Paraguay border, ultimately reaching major criminal factions in Brazil,’ Brazilian federal police said in a statement. 

Authorities carried out 20 raids in Paraguay and 20 in Brazil on Tuesday.

One of the searches took place at Dirísio’s home, where he lives with his wife, Julieta Nardi, a former model. Both had fled and remained on the run as of Wednesday.

Police in Paraguay also arrested 13 people, including the former chief of the Air Force, General Arturo González, and Captain Josefina Cuevas, the former head of Paraguay´s office in charge of controlling the imports and distribution of firearms known as Dimabel.

Paraguay’s drug enforcement agency says that as part of its investigation into the transatlantic weapons smuggling scheme, it was able to seize 1,800 military-style weapons worth about $5.2 million

María Ocampo is among the 13 people who were arrested in Paraguay on Tuesday as part of the investigation surrounding weapons that were purchased from Europe by her boss’ company and later sold to criminal factions in Brazil. Authorities allege that she negotiated with middlemen hired by the criminal organizations 

Eliane Marengo, according to authorities, is considered to be one of fugitive arms smuggler Hernan Dirísio’s two most trusted workers. She allegedly negotiated transactions of firearms with middlemen hired by Brazilian criminal organizations

Also arrested were María Ocampo and Eliane Marengo, two of Dirísio’s most trusted workers, who negotiated on his behalf with middlemen who dealt with the Brazilian criminal organizations.

At least five people were apprehended in Brazil on Tuesday.

Police searched an International Auto Supply and found an unknown amount of weapons in a container.

Paraguay’s federal drug enforcement agency said it had confiscated 1,800 military-style weapons worth about $5.2 million during the investigation.

Investigators obtained recorded conversations in which International Auto Supply employees allegedly asked González to use his influence with Dimabel.

The investigation into Dirísio’s transatlantic weapon’s smuggling scheme started in November 2020 when Brazilian authorities apprehended a man in possession of two rifles and 23 pistols while searching a bus in the northeastern state of Bahia.

Although each serial number had been deleted from the firearms, Federal Police agents were able to track their origin.

Diego Dirísio and his wife Julieta Nardi, a former model, evaded capture on Tuesday after authorities raided their home. The two are pictured in New York City at an unknown date

General Arturo González is among 13 people who were apprehended by Paraguay authorities on Tuesday in connection with the international arms smuggling scheme, which saw the purchase and sale of about 43,000 military-style weapons for Brazilian criminal organizations

Dirísio learned he was being investigated in October 2022 for allegedly trafficking weapons, according to his lawyer Roberto Cardozo, who appeared in front of a judge Tuesday before they rejected a Writ of Habeas Corpus that he presented on behalf of the fugitive dealer.

‘Great was the surprise, upon learning, that the Federative Republic of Brazil, specifically in Salvador Bahia, had apparently initiated a criminal investigation process … completely ignoring the details and the specific motives and the motive for whose name was linked to a criminal case before a federal criminal judge …, Cardozo said in court.

Brazilian authorities have carried out 67 searches and confiscated 659 firearms this year as part of the investigation.

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