Brazil's prisons are massively overcrowded, leading to riots by inmates seeking better living conditions
The multimillion reais drug ring was run from within Brazil's notorious cells Reuters

Brazilian police have broken up a major drug and arms trafficking ring after wiretapping dozens of gang members incarcerated within the country's notorious jails.

Law enforcement agencies revealed a criminal gang moved around 300,000 reais (£70,000) a week of drug money from their prison cells in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, in southern Brazil.

"It's like entrepreneurs organising a consortium to dominate a market from their own offices," Ricardo Herbstrith, the prosecutor, told local media.

After a year-long operation to combat deep-seated and rampant corruption within the state's jails, search and seizure warrants were issued against gang members in the municipalities of Campo Bom, São Leopoldo and Sapucaia do Sul, as well as within the Penitenciária de Alta Segurança de Charqueadas (Pasc), a high-security prison 40 minutes from the state's capital, Porto Alegre.

It is from inside this prison's walls that detainees from the narcotics trafficking organisation, known locally as Os Manos, were directing gang activity on the streets.

The criminal organisation, which also ran operations from Porto Alegre's central prison, ordered the execution of enemies to conquer territories for drug trafficking and wholesale drug distribution.

In a recording, a Pacs detainee is heard ordering the execution of the member of a rival gang. Three days later, he is heard celebrating the news of the member's death.

In another recording, a Pacs inmate under investigation is heard complaining to a fellow gang member about the foiled killing of a rival.

A monthly fee

The sting operation also offered more evidence the gang had set out a scheme to raise more than 1.3 million reais per year from fellow members to purchase a stockpile of arms.

From their cells in the Pasc, the gang leaders were hoping to raise the sum from 450 criminals linked to the organisation, with each member expected to pay a monthly fee of 200 reais.

Revelations came from the Ministério Público Estadual, Brazil's State Department of Justice, which led Operação Kommunication together with the military police and the Susep, the Superintendence of Private Insurance.

Overall, more than 32.000 reais were seized during the 12-month investigation, alongside euros, dollars and Chinese yuan bank notes.

Police also seized 31kg of crack, 32kg of marijuana, 5kg of cocaine, three vehicles with cloned registration plates, four precision scales, a rifle, 10 handguns, two shotguns, a submachine gun and three bulletproof vests.

Yesterday (9 February), police issued warrants and arrested 13 people – five were already inmates. In their cells, police found five mobile phones and 10 microchips.

Overall, 30 people have been arrested in the sting, according to the state department of justice.

This comes after it was revealed on Sunday (8 February) that 30 female prisoners escaped after they convinced wardens they were about to have an S&M orgy, near Cuiaba, central Brazil.