Rio de Janeiro : A racket that allowed nearly 300 Brazilian firms to evade 1 billion reais ($625 million) in taxes was dismantled Wednesday, authorities said.
“Operation Alchemy” involved arrests, searches and asset seizures in 18 of Brazil’s 27 states, Federal Police said.
The sweep followed a nine-year-long investigation by a federal judge, who ordered 31 people jailed, another 63 detained for questioning and the freezing of the assets of 195 companies and 62 individuals.
The suspects will face charges of tax evasion, money laundering, forgery and criminal conspiracy.
Some of the firms involved in the alleged fraud have their headquarters in offshore tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands.
Among the assets seized or frozen are industrial plants, aircraft, boats, luxury autos and a private island off the coast of the northeastern city of Salvador.
While Brazil’s tax agency estimated the amount of taxes evaded at 1 billion reais, Federal Police said the actual sum could be larger.
The head of Federal Police in Minas Gerais state, Fernando Duran, said the ring established shell companies to generate phony transactions with the legitimate chemical firms taking part in the scheme.