Unanswered questions and presidential links of killed crime boss

. Feb 12, 2020
Adriano Nobrega office of crime Bolsonaro Adriano da Nóbrega (L) and Senator Flávio Bolsonaro

The inner workings of Rio de Janeiro’s criminal underbelly have rarely been so exposed as since the assassination of left-wing councilor Marielle Franco in March of 2018. Investigations revealed suspicions that the hit job was carried out by a notorious Rio death squad known as the “Office of Crime,” a group made up of active and retired police officers who used their connections and access to firearms to carry out hired killings. The thread unraveled further when it was revealed that a number of these members of Rio de Janeiro “militias” partook in corruption schemes involving local politicians, namely President Jair Bolsonaro’s son, Flávio Bolsonaro.

However, the death of former special-ops police captain Adriano da Nóbrega on Sunday morning may end up stopping investigations in their tracks.

</p> <p>Mr. Nóbrega, identified as the head of the Office of Crime, was killed during a police operation in the countryside of Bahia state after being a fugitive from justice for over a year. He had sought refuge in a farmhouse belonging to local right-wing councilor Gilsinho de Dedé when the property was surrounded by police officers. Mr. Nóbrega reportedly refused to surrender and fired a gunshot at the law enforcement agents, when he was brought down by three bullet wounds. He was taken to hospital but died from his injuries.</p> <p>Before his death, Mr. Nóbrega&#8217;s lawyer claimed that he had expressed fears for his own life, saying he would fall victim to a hit job.</p> <figure class="wp-block-image"><img loading="lazy" width="1024" height="683" src="" alt="President Jair Bolsonaro and his son, Flávio, behind. Photo: Wilson Dias/ABr" class="wp-image-29298" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 2048w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /><figcaption>President Jair Bolsonaro and his son, Flávio, behind. Photo: Wilson Dias/ABr</figcaption></figure> <h2>Adriano da Nóbrega and the Office of Crime</h2> <p>The 43-year-old entered the military police of Rio de Janeiro back in 1999 after finishing top of his class and soon made his way into the state&#8217;s Special Police Operations Battalion (BOPE), where he rose to the rank of captain and became <a href="">widely feared</a> for his outstanding marksmanship and imposing physical frame. He was nicknamed the &#8220;Polar Bear&#8221; among his peers due to his fame as a cold and vicious killer.</p> <p>Throughout his time in the police, however, Adriano da Nóbrega developed links with local crime bosses, particularly in the area of <a href="">illegal gambling</a>, and Rio de Janeiro&#8217;s infamous urban &#8220;militias,&#8221; which is the name given to heavily armed police mafias involved in land-grabbing and extortion rings.</p> <p>Mr. Nóbrega was arrested three times during his police career under allegations of homicides connected to crime gang disputes, but would only be expelled from the corporation in 2014, after he was proved to be providing private security services to underground gambling kingpin Zé Personal.</p> <p>By the time of his removal from the force, however, it is believed that Adriano da Nóbrega was already deep into his parallel career as a feared criminal presence in Rio de Janeiro. A 2018 investigation by the Rio civil police and public prosecution service known as &#8220;<a href="">Operation Untouchables</a>&#8221; uncovered the existence of a death squad operating out of the west zone of Rio de Janeiro known as the Office of Crime. Led by Mr. Nóbrega and active military police officer Ronald Alves Pereira, the group worked as specialized hired assassins, linked to <a href="">militias in the neighborhood of Rio das Pedras</a> and carrying out precise, expert killings commissioned by other organized crime groups.</p> <p>Operation Untouchables ordered Mr. Nóbrega&#8217;s arrest, and he remained on the run until his death in the early hours of Sunday morning.</p> <h2>Adriano da Nóbrega and Marielle Franco</h2> <p>Investigations into the assassination of Marielle Franco and her driver, Anderson Gomes, pointed firmly toward the involvement of the Office of Crime thanks to evidence arising in mid-2018 showing that Ronald Alves Pereira, accused of being Mr. Nóbrega&#8217;s colleague at the head of the death squad, had been circulating the scene of the crime around the time of Ms. Franco&#8217;s murder.</p> <p>Mr. Pereira was arrested as part of Operation Untouchables but has remained silent on his potential involvement with the assassination.</p> <p>The links between Adriano da Nóbrega, the Office of Crime, and the death of Marielle Franco became increasingly nebulous after the <a href="">arrests of two retired military policemen</a> in connection with the crime. Ronnie Lessa and Élcio Vieira de Queiroz are considered to be two of the three men who were inside the silver Chevrolet Cobalt from which the bullets that killed Ms. Franco were fired. Mr. Lessa has been charged with effectively carrying out the murder.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <div id="buzzsprout-player-1078970"></div> <script src=";player=small" type="text/javascript" charset="utf-8"></script> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <p>As of yet, there has been no evidence released to confirm early suspicions that the pair were members of Mr. Nóbrega&#8217;s Office of Crime. While Adriano da Nóbrega admitted to knowing Mr. Lessa in testimony given to the police in 2018, investigators have been unable to establish any concrete links between the two.</p> <p>After Mr. Nóbrega&#8217;s death on Sunday morning, the Socialism and Freedom Party (PSOL, of which Marielle Franco was a member) released a statement saying that the ex-police captain &#8220;was a key figure in revealing who ordered the assassinations of Marielle [Franco] and Anderson [Gomes],&#8221; but later removed this sentence from its text, replacing mentions of Ms. Franco&#8217;s assassination with &#8220;crimes, including those involving [Fabrício] Queiroz and Flávio Bolsonaro.&#8221;</p> <h2>Adriano da Nóbrega and the Bolsonaro family</h2> <p>While no concrete evidence has come to light connecting any member of the family of President Jair Bolsonaro to the crimes of Adriano da Nóbrega, the public links of the police mafia boss with the president&#8217;s family are numerous.</p> <p>Investigations into a corruption scheme within Senator Flávio Bolsonaro&#8217;s office from his days as a state lawmaker in Rio de Janeiro have thrown up a number of direct and indirect mentions to Mr. Nóbrega.</p> <p>The scheme—considered recurrent among various municipal and state legislatures—involved employing dummy employees to Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s office, who would then receive salaries for no work, and a portion of this remuneration would be passed on to the scheme&#8217;s operator, suspected to be Flávio Bolsonaro himself, along with former advisor Fabrício Queiroz.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <div id="buzzsprout-player-1078985"></div> <script src=";player=small" type="text/javascript" charset="utf-8"></script> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <p>At the end of last year, documents found by prosecutors showed that some BRL 115,000 from Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s office was transferred through bank accounts controlled by Adriano da Nóbrega before being passed on to Mr. Queiroz. Furthermore, among the dummy employees identified by the investigation were Mr. Nóbrega&#8217;s wife Daniella Mendonça and his mother Raimunda Veras Magalhães.</p> <p>The Bolsonaro family was also shown to have a relationship with Mr. Nóbrega. In 2005, after the crime boss was arrested for the first time, Jair Bolsonaro took the stand of the House of Representatives in Brasília—where he served as a member of Congress—to praise the military police captain and disparage the accusations against him.&nbsp;</p> <p>&#8220;A colonel from Rio de Janeiro came here in uniform and said what he wanted and didn&#8217;t want to say against [Adriano da Nóbrega], accusing him of everything he could, forgetting the fact that [Mr. Nóbrega] has always been an outstanding officer, [graduating] first in the Military Police Academy, if I&#8217;m not mistaken,&#8221; he declared.</p> <p>Flávio Bolsonaro, in turn, honored Mr. Nóbrega twice in public while serving as a state lawmaker in Rio de Janeiro. He spoke of the police captain&#8217;s &#8220;dedication and gallantry&#8221; and decorated him with the Tiradentes medal, the highest honor given by the Rio de Janeiro state legislature.</p> <p>To add a further twist to the tale, on Wednesday afternoon Flávio Bolsonaro took to social media to declare that efforts were being made to &#8220;speed up the cremation&#8221; of Adriano Nóbrega, allegedly in an attempt to disguise that he had been &#8220;brutally assassinated,&#8221; leading to much suspicion over Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s own motivations to make such a statement.</p> <figure class="wp-block-embed-twitter wp-block-embed is-type-rich is-provider-twitter"><div class="wp-block-embed__wrapper"> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-width="550" data-dnt="true"><p lang="pt" dir="ltr">DENÚNCIA! Acaba de chegar a meu conhecimento que há pessoas acelerando a cremação de Adriano da Nóbrega para sumir com as evidências de que ele foi brutalmente assassinado na Bahia. Rogo às autoridades competentes que impeçam isso e elucidem o que de fato houve.</p>&mdash; Flavio Bolsonaro (@FlavioBolsonaro) <a href="">February 12, 2020</a></blockquote><script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script> </div></figure> <p>

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Euan Marshall

Originally from Scotland, Euan Marshall is a journalist who ditched his kilt and bagpipes for a caipirinha and a football in 2011, when he traded Glasgow for São Paulo. Specializing in Brazilian soccer, politics and the connection between the two, he authored a comprehensive history of Brazilian soccer entitled “A to Zico: An Alphabet of Brazilian Football.”

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