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Rio Militia Is Arrested for Profiting From 1.600 Social Housing Units

08/08/2014 - 09h54

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MARCO ANTÔNIO MARTINS
FROM RIO

Around one year ago the same scene repeated itself at Ferrara apartment block, in the Campo Grande area in western Rio.

Built with public funds derived from the federal program Minha Casa, Minha Vida to shelter victims of natural disasters and those removed from unsafe areas, this neighborhood was taken over by Rio's main militia.

According to the police, following the arrival of each resident the building manager would go to their doors with four men at his side to warn residents they had "fees to pay".

Electricity, water, security, internet and cable TV bills were among their demands. Food and fuel for cars and motorbikes could only be purchased directly from the militia.

On Thursday, 7th August, the Brazilian Civil Police arrested Ademir Horácio de Lima, 47, who had been named as the building manager.

Over 17 others were accused of taking part in the so called Justice League militia, the largest organized crime group to operate in social housing units in the state of Rio de Janeiro.

The Police are looking for another 10 suspects. Lima has denied accusations.

According to the police the group administered 1.600 apartments and controlled 5.000 residents. The paramilitary group is expected to have made a monthly profit of over US$ 451,490 with the illegal services.

Among those who have been arrested are five Military Policemen, four former police officers, one Civil Policeman, a firefighter, an Army soldier and a prison guard, as well as a number of civilians.

According to Rio Police this was the first mass arrest in the country involving a militia that infiltrated and took over six social housing apartment blocks.

Around US$ 13.5 was added to water and electricity bills of each resident, which were passed on the "firm", how the militia was referred to locally.

The group also sold a selection of essential foodstuffs for US$ 99 that had been bought for US$ 32. Local residents were not allowed to buy from local markets.

Whoever refused to pay was evicted, tortured or killed, according to the Police. At least 20 families were evicted from their units.

The death toll is under investigation. There have been reports of people that were evicted who have gone missing.

"They had the audacity to take over the properties of the evicted and then sell the apartments straight away for up to US$ 18,000", Commissioner Alexandre Capote has said.

The Police found four imported cars at the homes of the accused.

The group formed in the 1990's and could be identified by the symbol they used, of a bat similar to the comic book character Batman.

Translated by CRISTIANE COSTA LIMA

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