The international police agency has issued a ‘Purple Notice’, which means its 190 member countries are asked “to seek or provide information on modus operandi, objects, devices and concealment methods used by criminals”.
This action is not connected to the Brazilian ‘Weak Flesh’ scandal involving the bribing of Brazilian meat inspectors. In fact, it follows proactive action by the Association of Animal Protein (ABPA - Associação Brasileira de Proteína Animal) which has been relaying intelligence to the France-based global police agency on a range of fraud-based attacks on the Brazilian meat trade – both imports and exports. It has sent Interpol information about 700 frauds perpetrated on the industry by external criminals between July 2015 and December 2016.
'Sophisticated' criminal network
Ricardo Santini, vice-president for ABPA, which represents the pork and poultry sectors, told GlobalMeatNews: “In the past year-and-a-half, more than 700 cases have been reported to ABPA.” He said these were sometimes about counterfeit labels of products not produced in Brazil, cloning of emails from websites of meat exporting companies, false bank accounts, use of false SIF (federal inspection seal) seals, among other scams. “But the frauds are mainly digital, with a little change of one letter in the importer email for example, or the reversal of the designation ‘br’ in the electronic addresses. The criminal system is quite sophisticated. The gangs, be they in Brazil or in countries that imports Brazilian meat, have false bank accounts and offices,” he explained.
Reports issued last November (2016) by Ukraine-based consulting agency UkrAgroConsult have highlighted one particular problem, with fake traders posing online as qualified Brazilian meat exporters, then “negotiating with Chinese traders and taking deposits”. Such problems sparked warnings last November (2016) from the Chinese government about fraud risks regarding Brazilian meat exports, said the consultants.
Santini said: “Several countries have complained about frauds – among them Great Britain, Hungary, Poland and the USA.” And while importers in such cases suffer direct losses, Brazilian export companies being aped by fraudsters suffer a loss of reputation.
The purple notice may help police inquiries worldwide into such problems. It was actually released in February, one month before the ‘weak flesh’ operation was launched. Santini said ABPA would help the Brazilian federal police fight fraud in all cases, because it damages legitimate trades. “Corruption as well as falsification has to be punished,” he said.