Operation “Playboy” uncovers an international surfer drug smuggling ring in Brazil.
Not since Keanu Reaves busted Patrick Swayze on Bell’s Beach in Point Break has the law caught up to surf scoundrels so dramatically. On February 16th the Brazilian federal police arrested seven members of an international ring of surfing drug traffickers, who moved drugs around three continents inside boards. Operation “Playboy” kicked off after the arrest of the group’s alleged leader, Dimitrius Papageorgiou, at the Sao Paulo airport while boarding a flight to Paris. The Federal Police then arrested other members of the gang in cities and surf towns around Brazil.
“We’ve caught one of the largest synthetic drug trafficking organizations in the country,” said Officer Ronaldo Magalhaes, representative of the drug combat unit of the Brazilian Federal Police, as quoted in the newspaper O Globo.
The group, headquartered in the capital city Brasilia, is said to be the largest importer of synthetic drugs into Brazil over the past few years. Cocaine, easily smuggled from neighboring Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, and Paraguay was hidden in cut out sections of surfboard foam, which was then covered in fiberglass, weathered, and waxed to look normal. Members of the gang would then travel to countries such as Portugal, Holland, Germany, and Indonesia, where they would trade the cocaine for Ecstasy, LSD and Skunk that they sold back in Brazil.
The gang worked with young surfers, as well as windsurfers and hang-gliders who also hid drugs in their gear. Surfboard bearing ‘mules’ received two thousand Euros per kilo of cocaine transported abroad, plus passage and expenses for trips. In Brazil, the group is said to have earned around a quarter of a million dollars monthly from sales of Ecstasy alone.A week before the arrests, gang member Rodrigo Gularte was sentenced to death by an Indonesian court, after he was caught entering the country with six kilos of cocaine (worth around a quarter of a million dollars) hidden in six boards last July. Gularte is now debating whether to appeal the sentence, while his family is placing pressure on the Brazilian government to step up diplomatic efforts.
In the past fifteen months nearly fifty members of the gang have been apprehended within Brazil, but the recent arrests are the first to get at the leadership. Most of those caught came from upper class families in Brasilia, and one of the accused leaders, Michelli Tocci was the son of an Italian diplomat. Tocci was returning to Brasilia when he heard of the arrests and is believed to have fled the country.
Surfboards have been used for many years by drug smugglers to transport their product, but entire gangs of surfing traffickers are rare. This will ensure the sniffer dogs pay extra attention to your quiver in the next foreign airport you visit.