Top Brazil gold exporter leaves a trail of criminal probes and illegal mines

  • Brazilian gold exporter BP Trading accounted for 10% of the country’s exports of the precious metal in 2019 and 2020, having purchased it from companies prosecuted for buying illegal gold.
  • Most of the illegal mines are concentrated in Indigenous territories, where they deforest the land, pollute the rivers, and inflict violence on Indigenous communities.
  • The company saw strong growth in recent years, with revenues of $256 million in 2019, more than double what it made in 2018.
  • Illegal mining generates $600,000 to $800,000 a year in Brazil, according to Ministry of Mines and Energy estimates.

A simple internet search quickly shows the biggest exporters of soy, coffee, cattle or iron ore in Brazil. But there is a strange silence when it comes to gold: heads of institutions in the sector say they do not know the exporters; the Brazilian Federal Revenue Service and the Central Bank claim tax confidentiality.

The mystery surrounding gold exports has been broken by an exclusive Repórter Brasil investigation that sheds light on the largest exporter of gold from Brazilian wildcat mines, known as garimpos. It reveals that some of the gold exported by a company known as BP Trading, one of Brazil’s top exporters, may have been of illegal origin, often clandestinely extracted from Indigenous lands and protected forests in the Amazon, causing irreversible social and environmental damage.

BP Trading saw strong growth in recent years, with revenue of 1.4 billion reais ($350 million) in 2019, more than double its 2018 results. Its founders were investigated under the Operation Car Wash anti-corruption sweep. They are accused by the Federal Prosecution Service (MPF) of laundering money when they worked at Banco Paulista, a lender with close links to the trading company of the same initials.

When contacted, BP Trading said that it “maintains strict controls over the origin of the mineral purchased from its suppliers.”

An analysis of BP’s financial statements reveals that the company’s main suppliers include two so-called security distributors, or DTVMs — financial companies authorized to purchase gold — accused by the Federal Prosecution Service of trading illegal gold extracted in Pará state. The DTVMs in question are FD’Gold and Carol DTVM.

Source: Top Brazil gold exporter leaves a trail of criminal probes and illegal mines

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