One of South America’s biggest cocaine kingpins, who evaded police for three decades and even underwent surgery to change his face, has been captured, Brazilian authorities said.

Luiz Carlos da Rocha, nicknamed White Head, was arrested in the western state of Mato Grosso in Sorriso city, the federal police said in a statement on Saturday.

Da Rocha changed his name to Vitor Luiz de Moraes and undergone plastic surgery to successfully dodge police while continuing to run his international drug business.

His alleged right-hand man was also captured at a separate location during the operation in which police said 150 agents carried out 24 raids, seizing an estimated $10m worth of luxury cars, aircraft, farms and other property.

The name of the operation was “Spectrum”, referring in Portuguese to the phantom-like nature of a fugitive “who lived discreetly and in the shadows… evading police attempts for almost 30 years”, the police said in the statement.

In addition to using extreme violence, da Rocha was being protected by forces with heavy caliber weapons, police said.

The captured fugitive is accused of having headed an enormous cocaine network, which included production in the jungles of Bolivia, Colombia and Peru, and continued through to distribution on the continent and as far away as the United States and Europe.

He is also accused of being one of the main suppliers to the violent drug traffickers that hold sway in large areas of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

Da Rocha is believed to have amassed $100m in personal wealth in the form of vehicles, property and deposits in offshore bank accounts, which authorities said “will be the subject of the second phase of Operation Spectrum”.

Source: AFP news agency


BBC News

Brazil arrests notorious drug kingpin Luiz Carlos da Rocha

Luiz Carlos da Rocha with white hair in a handout photo from police

Luiz Carlos da Rocha was living under a fake name after cosmetic surgery, police said. POLICIA FEDERAL

Brazilian police have captured a notorious drug kingpin who used plastic surgery to evade capture for almost 30 years, authorities say.

Luiz Carlos da Rocha – nicknamed “White Head” – is believed to be the leader of a massive cocaine empire in South America.

Federal police said sentences handed down to Rocha amount to more than 50 years of prison time.

Police said he was “a criminal who lived discreetly and in the shadows”.

Rocha was arrested in Sorriso, in the western state of Mato Grosso, on Saturday, a police statement said.

The drug kingpin had been living in the city under the assumed name Vitor Luiz de Moraes. Agents compared old known photos of Rocha to the images of the new suspect, “and concluded that Luiz Carlos da Rocha and Vitor Luiz are the same person”.

A suitcase with currency, a gun and other objects belonging to Luiz Carlos da Rocha on 1 July 2017
Suitcases full of cash, a gun and other objects belonging to Rocha were found. EPA

Brazilian police said his organisation was known to be violent, making use of armed escorts, armoured cars, and heavy weapons.

It produced cocaine in Bolivia, Peru and Colombia, before shipping it through an elaborate logistics system to Europe and the United States.

Luiz Carlos da Rocha is also accused of being one of the main providers of cocaine to criminal organisations within Brazil, in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

In total, police estimate his empire produced some five tonnes of cocaine each month.

Operation Spectrum – the name given to the sting – also seized some $10m (£7.6m) worth of criminal assets, including farms, other real estate, luxury vehicles and aircraft.

Officers believe Rocha’s wealth is closer to $100m, and say they will seek to seize the rest of his assets in the second phase of the operation.