Brazilian police launch operation to arrest 767 members of criminal gang

Sao Paulo, Dec 17 (EFE).- Police in the southern Brazilian state of Parana on Thursday launched an operation to capture 767 members of the First Command of the Capital, or PCC, one of the country's main organized criminal groups.

Some 1,500 police received arrest warrants for 767 people in Curitiba, the state capital, and in 72 other towns, the regional government reported.

The operation is aimed at dismantling the PCC in Parana, where the group is accused of murders, drug and weapons trafficking, vehicle theft and home invasions, authorities confirmed to EFE.

Of the 767 warrants, 484 people are already being held in Brazilian jails, and so now the crime of criminal association will be added to the charges against them, the state secretary for Public Security and Prison Administration, Wagner Mesquita, said at a press conference.

According to Mesquita, two attorneys who were helping the group were also arrested and another 21 suspects have died in recent months, while the investigation has been under way.

Mesquita said that his department is already negotiating the transfer of the group's leaders to other prisons.

In 2016, in addition, equipment will be installed in prisons to block cellphone signals.

The judge that ordered the operation also authorized the blocking of 237 cellphones and 28 bank accounts.

The investigation began in August 2014 after police acquired notebooks containing notes and details of the group's activities in Parana.

Since then, more than 30,000 telephone calls have been intercepted in which suspects refer to crimes in 11 states, including Minas Gerais, Sao Paulo, Bahia and Alagoas.