As he boarded a commercial bus in Boa Vista, Roraima, heading for
Manaus, Amazonas, Raimundo had no idea that he was being awaited by Federal
Police agents at the bus station. When he reached his destination, he was
surprised by the police, who had been investigating him on account of a cocaine
No drug was not found with Raimundo, but he carried two gold bars weighing approximately 800 grams, taken from the Yanomami Indigenous Territory – the result of illegal mining, according to Brazilian legislation, which prohibits mining activities in indigenous areas or reservations. The gold would be delivered to taxi driver Paulo Clemente Lopes, identified by the Federal Police as a representative of the company Ourominas in Manaus.
Even before this incident, which took place in April 2015,
Ourominas and its representative, Paulo Clemente, had been in the crosshairs of
police officers. Paulo Clemente had been identified by a gold middleman who had
been approached by military police officers on a bus trip crossing the border
between Roraima and Amazonas, when he stated that the R$90,000 in cash that he
carried – part of which was found lodged in his underwear – was the result of the
sale of 1 kilo of gold to the Ourominas representative.
Raimundo and the middleman caught with cash stashed in his
underwear traveled to Manaus as employees of the company Gold Jóias, one of
dozens of businesses that buy and sell gold extracted from TI Yanomami at the
so-called Rua do Ouro (Gold Street), in Boa Vista. Phone conversations show
intense negotiations between Paulo Clemente, from Ourominas, and the owners of
Gold Jóias: Andreia Cavalcanti Lima and Manoel Pereira Souza Neto. All had been
indicted by the Federal Public Prosecutors’ Office (MPF) in 2017 due to crimes
against the economic order. The store continues to operate normally. Ourominas
Read the article about Rua do Ouro, in Boa Vista
The records of Federal Police investigations made available to Repórter Brasil under the Access to Information Law have identified some of the different companies involved in the purchase of gold originating from TI Yanomami. Together, the records of the investigations amount to over 5,000 pages that show how the sale of metal gains a veneer of legality, despite its illegal origins.
The scheme involves both small gold stores, such as Gold Joias, DU
Gold, Naza Joias and Itaituba Metais and larger companies, based in São Paulo
and Rio de Janeiro. In addition to Ourominas, Dillon, Carol, FD’Gold and Coluna
are also suspected of irregularities. These are known as Securities
Distributors (DTVMs) – companies that are part of the financial system which
have authorization from the Central Bank to buy gold. A major jewelry chain,
HStern, was also mentioned at least twice in the records of the Federal Police
The documents also shed light on how the clandestine scheme works.
First, some of the illegally mined Yanomami gold goes directly to neighboring
countries (Venezuela, Suriname and French Guiana) to be sold. Another part goes
to Boa Vista, where it is purchased by the small jewelry stores on Rua do Ouro
– even though they lack the Central Bank’s license to buy gold.
These middlemen, in turn, usually go to Manaus or Itaituba (Pará),
where gold is sold to the DTVMs. Legalization takes place mainly in these two
cities in a “grotesque” manner, in the words of the MPF prosecutor in Itaituba,
Paulo de Tarso. When the middleman sells to a DTVM, he manually fills out an
invoice declaring that the gold came from a legal mine – those covered by the so-called
Permissão de Lavras Garimpeiras, which are mines whose activities are authorized
by the National Mining Agency (ANM). As there are no legal mines in Roraima, the
middlemen declare that the gold originating from TI Yanomami actually came from
mines in Pará and Amazonas.
Using these fabricated invoices, the gold in the possession of the
DTVMs becomes “legalized”. From then on, this gold can be freely traded – sold
to both financial institutions and large jewelry stores, both locally and
There are five DTVMs that appear, in different contexts, in the PF documents that resulted from three large joint operations to combat illegal gold mining in TI Yanomami: Xawara (2012), Koxi (2015) and Tori (2017), also used as a basis for the indictments. The unprecedented investigation by Repórter Brasil shows that gold tainted by Yanomami blood circulates freely, benefiting from the fragile legislation that regulates the sector.
Law No.12,844/2013, which regulates the purchase, sale and
transport of gold in the country, states that the sale of gold relies on the
good faith of the seller – thus exempting buyers from any responsibility. In
addition, information about the origin of the gold is self-declared (by the
seller) when filling out the invoice, which means that this is a fraud-prone scheme.
“The claims made by gold buyers [about their innocence] are based
on this [the law], responsibility is imputed to sellers”, says federal prosecutor
Paulo de Tarso. “The owner of a DTVM that buys gold can acquire illegally
sourced metal relying on a presumed good faith, and the seller is responsible
for stating where the gold comes from. In short: a company like Ourominas is
the buyer and whoever sold the gold was the one who lied, according to the law”,
In addition to criticizing the legal framework surrounding the gold market in Brazil, the prosecutor also disapproves of the lack of inspection by the ANM on the mining permits and gold transactions, the issuance of (municipal and state) environmental licenses for mining operations (an activity that is considered, by law, as low-impact) and the fact that the Central Bank only inspects DTVMs (which excludes small intermediary companies). “We have a very truncated legislation”, criticizes the prosecutor in an interview with Repórter Brasil.
At least 49 tons of illegal gold in the country were laundered between
2019 and 2020, i.e., their origin was concealed and the gold was introduced
into trade as a legal product, according to a study by the Federal University
of Minas Gerais carried out at the request of the MPF. This laundering of gold
generated a socio-environmental loss in the amount of R$9.8 billion for the
Amazon, according to the researchers.
Regarded as one of the major jewelry chains in the world, HStern
is mentioned by Paulo Clemente, from Ourominas, in a conversation tapped by the
Federal Police. The company was founded in Rio de Janeiro in 1945 and today has
stores in New York, Moscow and London. It is known for producing luxurious
pieces, that have been worn by Angelina Jolie and Beyoncé. The brand’s gold
rings can cost up to R$29 thousand. But part of Hstern’s production uses gold
mined at TI Yanomami.
In a conversation in April 2015, recorded by the police, Paulo Clemente asked Andreia Cavalcanti Lima, owner of Gold Joias, in Boa Vista, to set aside 5 kilos of gold for a trip to São Paulo that would take place in the near future. Paulo Clemente said that a meeting was scheduled “with HStern people” during that trip, without specifying the individuals who would attend the meeting.
In other occasion, the partner and founder of Ourominas, Juarez de
Oliveira Filho, also makes reference to HStern in a statement he gave to
investigators. When asked by the Federal Police whether he sold gold to the
jewelry chain, he did not deny it, saying only that he “sold very little” to that
Despite the tapped conversation, Paulo Clemente told the Federal
Police that he did not remember the dialogue with Andréia and that he did not
know HStern representatives either. No H.Stern employee was heard by the Federal
Police during its investigations.
Asked about the negotiations with HStern, Ourominas informed that “commercial
information is protected by fiscal and banking secrecy”. HStern did not respond
to repeated attempts of email and telephone contact made by Repórter Brasil.
If, on the one hand, illegal gold extracted from indigenous lands
may be found in the windows of a luxury jewelry store, on the other hand, this
same gold is enriching different players involved in the scheme. One of the
main cores of the scheme would be the DTVMs. Repórter Brasil analyzed
the financial statements of three DTVMs that have already been investigated by
the Federal Police. The one that showed the highest profitability last year was
company declared net profits of R$ 32.8 million in
Its owner, Dirceu Frederico Sobrinho, also owns of a small fortune resulting from decades of mining work. In 2018, he ran for the office of 1st alternate of senator Flexa Ribeiro (PSDB-PA), declaring a personal net worth of R$ 20.3 million. In addition to apartments in São Paulo and farms in Pará, his assets include a backhoe (with a declared value of R$450 thousand) and 50% of the shares of F.D’Gold, with a value of R$2 million.
In addition to F.D’ Gold, Dirceu Sobrinho owns D’Gold and
Mineradora Ouro Roxo. He also holds 32 mining permits, 29 of them in Itaituba
and another three in Jacareacanga, Pará, obtained between 1995 and 2007. The
city in Pará has been the site of illegal mining activities carried out at the Munduruku
Indigenous Land , as reported by Amazônia Real.
“Dirceu controls almost the entire chain, as he owns the mine, the
small stores that buy the gold and one of the largest DTVMs in the country”,
said a source who asked not to be identified.
Since 2013, Dirceu Sobrinho has been chairman of Anoro (the National
Gold Association), an entity that brings together sector member companies and a
vocal advocate for the licensing of mining activities on indigenous lands.
The businessman enjoys a good reputation among representatives of
the highest echelon of the administration of President Jair Bolsonaro (no
party). He met with Vice President Hamilton Mourão in July 2019 to defend
mining on indigenous lands. Another visit to the Planalto Palace took place two
months later, in a meeting with Onyx Lorenzoni (General Secretariat), Ricardo
Salles (then Environment Minister) and retired General Augusto Heleno
(Institutional Security Office ), as reported
by Época magazine.
“The owner of F.D’Gold DTVM, the country’s third-largest payer of CFEM [tax] on gold mining in the first four months of 2020, the chairman of Anoro is the most vocal lobbyist for the legalization of mining activities, with which he has been involved since the eighties”, said a study published by Instituto Escolhas, an organization that acts in the defense of better regulation of the sector and traceability of ore.
Sobrinho, who is a former secretary of the Environment for
Itaituba, has been sued for environmental damages in the Tapajós Environmental
Protection Area, in the Pará municipalities of Jacareacanga and Itaituba.
In the records of the case that charged him with “crimes of money laundering
or hiding of assets”, the lobbyist obtained a habeas corpus, in 2019, leading
to the dismissal of the Federal Police investigation on atypical financial
transactions detected by Coaf (the Council for Control of Financial Activities)
relating to the F. D’ Gold accounts between 2013 and 2014.
“There is a difficulty in producing evidence [to incriminate
illegal buyers]”, says Larissa Rodrigues, project manager at Instituto
Escolhas. “The Federal Police arrives at a small store in Itaituba, which they
know is fraudulent, only to find a heap of papers, with several Mining Permit
numbers. They would have to inspect all of those small stores to produce
evidence, except that the gold is coming from somewhere else. Without the
traceability of gold, which does not exist today, there is nothing to do”.
The specialist also claims that, oftentimes, the owners of legal
mines encourage the exploration of the metal in prohibited areas to “launder the
gold” – and guarantee their own gains. “It’s similar to what happens with soy
and cattle. You mix soy or cattle produced in illegal areas with soy or cattle from
the legal areas and then there’s no telling them apart”.
The researcher also highlights the ease of transporting the metal
and its valorization in recent years, which encourages illegal activity. “If
there’s fraud with logging, which involves huge pieces of wood, imagine with
gold, which you can hide in your pocket”, she analyzes.
There is also another link in the chain that makes inspection and investigations difficult in the sector: the so-called Gold Purchase Stations, which operate as “arms” of the DTVMs, established in places outside the company’s headquarters – predominantly in cities like Manaus or Itaituba. The problem is that the purchase stations can be operated by other entities, with different CNPJs, which makes the chain all the more complex.
In a statement, Dirceu Sobrinho said that his companies “strictly
follow all current laws and do not condone the illegal extraction of gold,
actively fighting any irregular and/or illegal action” and that “all company actions
were duly registered in detail and, thus, there are no grounds to maintain an
investigation”. Sobrinho also stated, through his press office, that “it is
necessary to focus on regulating the mining activity in the permitted areas,
respecting the current legislation. Regularization is a priority for the entire
sector and must also be so for Brazilian society as a whole”. Read the full statement here.
Created in the early 1980s, when Juarez de Oliveira Filho started
earning money as a miner in Mato Grosso, today Ourominas has more than 80
stores across the country. Headquartered in São Paulo, but with so-called Gold
Purchase Stations in cities such as Itaituba
(PA) and Peixoto de Azevedo (MT), the company had a declared net income of R$
498 thousand in the first half of 2019, according
to the company’s published balance sheet.
The businessman accumulates good results from his activities in
the sector but is also facing legal challenges. Oliveira Filho is a defendant
in at least six lawsuits under the jurisdiction of TRF 1, which involve work
analogous to slavery, environmental damages, misrepresentation, smuggling, money
laundering and concealing of assets.
His company was also indicted by the MPF in a public civil action
in July 2019, accused of acquiring illegal gold in the region of Óbidos (Pará),
close to the Z’oé Indigenous Land. At the time, the branch of Ourominas in
Santarém bought almost 611 kilos of illegal gold, in operations totaling around
R$ 70 million.
According to the Amazon Task Force, the Ourominas Gold Purchasing Station
in Santarém had a scheme set up to facilitate metal laundering: it maintained a
database with information on legalized
mines to be used in invoices to disguise the actual origin of the illegal gold.
In this case, it was the buyer (Ourominas) itself that filled in the fraudulent
information, making seller’s life easier.
The majority partner of Ourominas was also the target of the
Minamata operation, launched by the Federal Police in 2017 to investigate the
possible cooptation of the Cooperativa de Garimpeiros do Lourenço Ltda (Coogal)
by politicians and businessmen, including Juarez de Oliveira Filho. Cooperative
workers were found to be subjected to slavery-like conditions by labor
inspectors (Ministry of Economy), and there are indications that mining
activities in Calçoene (Amapá) have contaminated the region’s rivers through the
use of mercury.
Documents relating to TI Yanomami also raise the suspicion that
businessmen from Ourominas may have benefited from privileged information
during the investigations into illegal mining in the region. In 2015, in the
early morning hours before the Federal Police’s search and seizure operation
took place, Juarez asked Aquiles Pereira Salerno Junior, also a partner in the
company, to go to one of the offices and “check if everything was right”
because “surely the police would be heading there”.
An hour later, an employee of Ourominas, Paulo Clemente’s wife,
called the company’s second-in-command detailing the search conducted by the Federal
Police at her home. Achilles asked her
to erase all records of phone calls from her phone. In the afternoon, Paulo
Clemente called Aquiles and said he had denied any employment relationship with
Ourominas but revealed that “the pressure was on”.
Among the partners of Ourominas, only Aquiles Salerno was indicted
by the MPF as a result of the Warari Koxi operation, due to an attempt to
destroy evidence. The Federal Police discovered that Paulo Clemente’s wife gave
up her own cell phone during the search and seizure but hid her husband’s phone.
‘The difficulty in holding certain companies criminally responsible is also due to the fact that the owner of Ourominas, for example, is domiciled in São Paulo. He does not buy [gold] directly. He has a local partner who gets his hands dirty. If things go wrong, he will say that he didn’t know what was going on.’ Paulo de Tarso
Alisson Marugal, who is also federal prosecutor, from the MPF in
Roraima, who specializes in indigenous issues, agrees that it is difficult to
produce documents that incriminate large businessmen involved in illegal
mining. “There is a flaw in the investigations, which have yet to reach these major
players. There are businessmen in the air transportation sector, politicians…
On the other hand, it must be said that there is a very large number of people
who pursue mining activities. When they dismantle a criminal cell, three or
four appear in its place. More efficiency is needed, especially when it comes
to major players”, he told Repórter Brasil.
Ourominas stated, in a note, that “after a long inquisitorial and
investigative phase that takes place during the police investigation, it was
concluded that neither the company OM nor its partners participated in the investigated
conducts and, therefore, they are not parties to the criminal action, i.e.,
they are not defendants in the case”.
Nevertheless, a survey carried out in the TRF 1 database
shows that Aquiles Salerno, the company’s second-in-command, is a defendant in
at least two lawsuits: one for “crimes against the economic order” and another
for “crimes of money laundering or hiding of assets”. Besides Salerno, Paulo
Clemente Lopes is also a defendant in a lawsuit originating in “crimes against
the economic order”. Regarding these cases, all that Ourominas said was that
they were subject to court secrecy and that, in the case of Salerno, “all
information will be provided in court”.
Asked again about the processes involving one of
the company’s partners, Ourominas repeated that “all information will be
provided in court”. The company also said that “it does not condone
slavery-like work conditions” and that “according to a court decision, all
assets were returned/released”. Read the full statement
In addition to the abovementioned involvement of Ourominas and
HStern in the purchase of illegal gold, the investigations conducted as part of
the Warari Koxi operation also points to another DTVM: Dillon, which declared a
net profit of R$ 692 thousand in the 2nd half of 2020. The company
used Naza Jóias store, in Boa Vista, as a “branch” to buy gold extracted from
“Dillon, directly and indirectly, financed illegal mining activities
in the State of Roraima”, said the Federal Police in one of the investigations.
Documents found at the company’s headquarters in Rio de Janeiro showed that such
DTVM made bank transfers to representatives of Naza Joias and Du Gold, stores
in Boa Vista identified as buyers of Yanomami gold.
Eduardo Freire da Silva Filho, a partner at Du Gold, was indicted for
crimes against the environment following the Xawara operation. Chairman and
majority shareholder of Dillon, Luis Claudio Lins Fabbriani is a defendant in a
lawsuit for money laundering and concealment of assets and the imposition of
slavery-lie work conditions in the Coogal case, in Amapá.
Maria Nazaré, from Naza Joias, and Eduardo Freire, from Du Gold,
informed through their lawyers that they will not make a statement on this
issue. Francisco Picorelli, Compliance Director at Dillon, informed by phone
that the case was being analyzed by the company’s partners. So far, there has
been no response to Repórter Brasil‘s questions.
Investigations into a single smuggler helped the Federal police obtain
some of what little evidence has been produced as a result of these operations.
These are invoices found at the home of Rafael Vieira, an employee of Itaituba
Metais, corresponding to the sale of TI Yanomami gold to three DTVMs: R$ 44,000
(356g) to Carol DTVM, based in São Paulo, R$ 20,000 (170g) to Coluna DTVM, headquartered
in Rio de Janeiro and R$ 8,800 (79g) to D’Gold, one of Dirceu Sobrinho’s
Unlike in previous cases, in which purchasing stations were registered in the name of third parties, in this case the station is registered in the name of Dirceu Sobrinho and his daughter, Sarah Almeida Frederico.
This episode illustrates well what prosecutors and experts
criticize about the weakness of the law – which protects buyers – and the
difficulty in producing evidence. Only the employees of Itaituba Metais, Rafael
Vieira and the owner Leandro de Sousa Rodrigues (sellers), were indicted by the
Public Prosecutors’ Office as a result of the Tori operation, for misappropriation
of assets belonging to the Federal Government. The DTVMs (buyers) were left
Coluna DTVM told Repórter Brasil that it “is unaware of the
allegations of purchase of gold from indigenous reserves” and that it has not
been summoned by the Federal Police or by the Public Prosecutors’ Office. Read
the full statement here. Carol DTVM did not respond to the reporter’s questions.
Dirceu Sobrinho did not answer questions about the invoices relating
to the purchase of gold from Itaituba Metais either. Through his lawyer,
Leandro de Sousa Rodrigues, the founder of the company, informed that he would
not make a statement. Rafael Vieira’s defense could not be reached.
The Central Bank told the reporters it would not issue a comment
on this issue.
The ANM press office claimed that it could not answer, as it was
not aware of cases involving the miners used to “launder” illegal gold.
“There is a very strong lobby, because these businessmen, linked
to Anoro [the National Gold Association], are behind the laws that govern the
sector. They designed the system, which exempt them from criminal
responsibility”, says prosecutor Tarso, noting that the problem is that the law
exempts buyers – and there are many of them.
If you’ve come this far and found that there are too many parties
involved in the scheme, you’re right. According to specialists, the structure
of illegal mining at TI Yanomami is based on a series of nuclei, with different
people getting rich in each one of them. Regarding the universe of small
middlemen companies, many of the names investigated by the Federal Police or indicted
by the Prosecutors’ Office are not mentioned here. Our focus was on larger
companies, the DTVMs and their respective intermediaries.
Precisely because of the complexity of the logistics, as well as
the profusion of actors involved in the scheme, the Federal Public Prosecutor in
Roraima, Alisson Marugal, believes that only “a real war operation could end
illegal mining in indigenous lands”.
*In collaboration with Piero Locatelli
Yanomami Blood Gold Teams
Amazônia Real: Kátia Brasil
(executive editor); Eduardo Nunomura (special editor); Alberto Cesar Araujo
(photography editor), Elaíze Farias (content editor); Maria Fernanda Ribeiro,
Clara Britto and Alicia Lobato (reporters); Bruno Kelly (flight photographer)
and Paulo Dessana (photographer); Lívia Lemos (social media); Maria Cecília
Costa (executive assistant); Giovanny Vera (maps); César Nogueira (editing);
Nelson Mota (developer); and Ana Cecilia Maranhão Godoy (translator).
Repórter Brasil: Ana Magalhães (journalism coordinator); Mariana Della Barba (editor); Mayra Sartorato (social media editor); Piero Locatelli and Guilherme Henrique (reporters); Joyce Cardoso (intern).