Police Uncover Massive Smuggling Ring That Moved Guns from Europe to Cartels

Top security officials, including a former air force boss, were among those arrested in the scheme that allegedly sent nearly 50,000 guns to South America.
​Images via Federal Police of Brazil.
Images via Federal Police of Brazil.

Dozens of raids in two countries just uncovered a major cross-continental arms trafficking ring involving high ranking security officials that moved tens of thousands of weapons from Europe to South American organized crime groups, authorities say.

The weapons were allegedly sourced primarily from Croatia, Turkey, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic via a Paraguay-based business called International Auto Supply, run by an Argentine man. The company allegedly received fast-tracked authorizations to move the firearms through a division of Paraguay’s armed forces called DIMABEL, which controls the importation and distribution of weapons, according to a video released by Paraguayan authorities.


Thirteen people were arrested in Paraguay and Brazil for their roles in the scheme, including Bienvenido Fretes, the former director of DIMABEL, and Arturo González, the former head of Paraguay’s air force. The president of the company who allegedly spearheaded the plot, Diego Dirisio, and his wife, Julieta Nardi, are wanted by authorities, but remain on the lam.

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Dubbed Operation Dakovo by authorities, Brazil's federal police outlined “a complex and multi-million-dollar illicit firearms trafficking network from Europe to South America,” in a statement. They alleged that the company moved 43,000 weapons worth an estimated $242 million to South America. Upon arrival, the weapons had their serial numbers shaved off and were then sold to some of Brazil’s largest gangs, authorities said.

Neither Paraguayan nor Brazilian officials named the gangs who received the weapons, but a video released by Paraguayan authorities included imagery appearing to be from the region’s notorious First Capital Command (PCC for its Portuguese acronym.) The Brazil-based PCC is arguably the largest gang in South America and is known to have a massive presence in Paraguay as well.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security was also involved in the year-long investigation, Paraguayan authorities said. They also alleged that money from the arms trafficking ring was laundered through the U.S.