Illegal 77 pounds gold Trade: Two American businessmen, Frank Giannuzzi and Steven Bellino, were caught at an airport in Manaus, Brazil with 61 gold bars worth $1.4 million in their possession. The men had launched a venture to cash in on the soaring gold prices, and their Brazilian partner had connected them to a local gold trader. The Brazilian federal police acted on intelligence information and found the irregular cargo in their bags during a search.
The article describes an incident where Brazilian authorities seized gold believed to be illegally trafficked and arrested a trader named Brubeyk Garcia Nascimento. Two American businessmen, Bellino and Giannuzzi, who had accompanied Nascimento on the trip, were questioned but released without charges. The incident sparked a legal battle involving an Austrian businessman accused of gold smuggling. The article also highlights the issue of illegal gold mining in South America, particularly in the Amazon. Bellino and Giannuzzi’s friendship also ended in a separate lawsuit in New York.
The illegal gold trade is a lucrative business for criminals who use it to launder money and engage in illegal activities. The ease with which the two New York businessmen obtained 77 pounds of questionable gold highlights the challenges of cracking down on this trade, which fuels environmental destruction and enriches criminal groups. Brazil has long been a top producer of gold, but illegal mining has increased dramatically in recent years, fueled by soaring demand and policies that promote less oversight and more mining in the Amazon rainforest. This has resulted in a gold-mining free-for-all, with criminal groups and poor laborers using toxic mercury to extract the gold, polluting waterways and contaminating the soil. The destruction of large swaths of rainforest also contributes to climate change, and Indigenous groups, such as the Yanomami and Munduruku people, who rely on the land, have been terrorized by armed men seeking to quell resistance to illegal mining activities.
According to Brazilian police documents, forensic examinations of the gold confiscated from Americans Bellino and Giannuzzi showed that it likely came from illegal mines in the Tapajós region. The men claimed they believed they were dealing with a reputable partner and had no reason to suspect it might be illegal. However, experts say that even minimal research would have revealed that gold procured in Manaus was likely to have come from illegal mining. The men arrived at the airport to register the gold with the customs office as required by law, and the officers stationed there stopped them due to suspicions about the gold’s origin. The illegal mining of gold in the Amazon has increased in recent years, resulting in environmental destruction and endangering Indigenous groups that rely upon the land.
The Brazilian trader, Nascimento, who sold gold to the two American men, Giannuzzi and Bellino, claimed that he obtained the gold from an Austrian businessman named Werner Rydl. Rydl had a criminal record, including charges of fraud and tax evasion. He was detained at a Brazilian airport in 2015, carrying a 23-ounce gold bar worth $14,000 without any documentation. In interviews with authorities, Rydl said he had acquired more than 27 tons of gold from a variety of sources, but he no longer had any paperwork proving its origin. He was sentenced to two years in prison, which was converted into a fine and community service. Rydl insisted that the gold he sold to Nascimento came from jewelry he bought in Brazil, but he did not have any evidence to support his claim.