NY company is linked to illegal gold in the Amazon – 01/04/2023 – Environment

NY company is linked to illegal gold in the Amazon – 01/04/2023 – Environment


Manaus Airport, January 2020. It was after 9 pm on a Friday when two Americans and a Brazilian were approached by PF (Federal Police) agents. With photos of the foreigners in their hands, the police were interested in the pink suitcase they intended to take to New York, loaded with 35 kg of Amazonian gold, which today is worth R$ 10 million.

The cargo, which represents a third of the illegal gold seized by the PF that year, was in the possession of New Yorkers Frank Giannuzzi and Steven Bellino and Brubeyk Nascimento from Goiás. At the center of a legal dispute, the bars could be the tip of an international scheme to smuggle illegal gold from the Amazon, according to a joint investigation by Repórter Brasil and the American TV network NBC News.

During the approach, the three reported that the cargo would be reuse of melted jewels, but the PF already had intelligence information about the possible irregular origin. “That’s why we approached them before boarding,” explained criminal expert Ricardo Lívio Marques.

The first analysis of the composition of the material, carried out at the airport with an X-ray gun, pointed to an illegal origin, as was later confirmed by two other more precise investigations. The analysis detected impurities “frequently found in gold from mining and never in recycled material”.

According to the reports, the gold would be from the Tapajós Gold Province, in Pará, where three of the indigenous lands most affected by illegal mining are located: Munduruku, Sawré-Muybu and Sai-Cinza, according to Mapbiomas.

Bellino, 65, and Giannuzzi, 43, had been friends for over a decade when they were introduced to Nascimento in 2019 by Giannuzzi’s wife, who is Brazilian. That’s where the idea of ​​importing gold from South America to the USA and Turkey came from. The foreigners then created the Doromet company, which promises “full service” in the precious metals trade and is headquartered in Manhattan.

6,800 km away, in the center of Anápolis (GO), Nascimento’s business, 36, graduated in engineering, took off after the meeting. Bamc Laboratório de Análises de Solos e Minerios Ltda, created in 2018 as a wholesale mineral trade, increased its annual purchase of gold by 65 times between 2019 and 2022, from 35 kg to 2,279 kg. The company, however, is not authorized to buy gold from mining in Brazil, according to the ANM (National Mining Agency).

In 2021, Bellino filed a lawsuit in the New York court against the former partner and the Brazilian, claiming to have invested US$ 750,000 in Doromet, but not to have received participation for the “profitable business” that the firm had become.

This process confirms that after the seizure in Manaus, “all subsequent gold shipments were received from Brazil and processed in the United States, as well as in Istanbul, Turkey.”

The lawsuit also reveals the route of part of the gold illegally removed from the Amazon, information rarely available in a sector that lacks transparency and whose transactions are still on paper — it was only last Thursday (30th) that the government published a normative instruction establishing the electronic invoice in the gold trade, to take effect from July.

In New York, Brazilian metal would be refined a few blocks from Doromet, at the Gold Tower Refinery, which would have signed a purchase agreement with Ginanuzzi and Bellino. However, the refinery said that the document presented to the Court is “forged” and that the company “never signed any agreement” involving Brazilian gold.

Sought by NBC, lawyer John Maggio, who defends Bellino in the US, said that he only acts in the action against Giannuzzi and that he would not comment on the legal dispute in Brazil.

Giannuzzi’s US defense declined to comment.

Nascimento’s lawyer, Robspierre Lôbo de Carvalho, stated that the origin of the gold is legal and that the PF investigations are “totally suspect and will be challenged”.

200,000 wedding rings per month

In the same month that he met the Americans, Nascimento signed a contract with Werner Rydl, an Austrian billionaire who became a naturalized Brazilian and who committed to supplying Goiás with up to 700 kg of gold from reused jewelry every month. The amount is equivalent to more than 200,000 wedding rings per month – a number greater than all divorced Brazilians in 2022.

Rydl has already been spotted trying to board with gold of dubious origin in 2015, at Cuiabá airport, and in 2018 in Guarulhos. In addition, he is being investigated by the Federal Police for exporting 120 tons of the metal in a suspicious situation.

To Repórter Brasil, Rydl confirmed that he sold gold bars to Nascimento and gave testimony about the case to the PF in December. The businessman said that he bought all his assets in jewelry in Brazil between 1991 and 2010.

On the purity of the seized bars not being compatible with melted jewels, Rydl stated: “Nonsense, jewels exist in any purity”.

The dispute for the gold

The indication of the illegal origin of the 35 kg of gold in the first investigation by the PF did not stop the Americans from fighting in the Brazilian courts for the cargo. Nor did it convince some judges of the need to keep it in Brazil, since two judges voted to return the ore.

The MPF defended in the TRF-1 (Federal Regional Court of the 1st Region) that the gold remain under the custody of the Union, as it would be “extremely difficult or even impracticable” to recover it if it were taken abroad.

Even so, the rapporteur for the case, Ney Bello, accepted Doromet’s thesis that the first PF report was “precarious” and that the ownership of the ore and its legal origin were “documentally proven”. Bello was quoted by Bolsonaro to take a seat on the STJ in 2022.

Her vote was accompanied by the president of the class, Maria do Carmo Cardoso, a friend of Senator Flávio Bolsonaro (PL-RJ) who had her social networks blocked after posting in favor of coup acts.

Sought, the TRF-1 stated that the decision referred only to the custody of the gold, and that “questions about possession, property and origin do not concern the criminal judgment”. Bello and Cardoso were sought through the court and did not appear.

With the votes of Cardoso and Bello, the way would be clear for the metal to go to the US, were it not for a gold seizure order issued in 2021 by the ANM.

Lawyer Guilherme Peixoto de Almeida, who defends Doromet in Brazil, stated that the seizure of the ANM is illegal as it was not preceded by due legal process.

Although the ore is still in dispute, the ANM said it has legal support to take the gold to auction before the end of the processes, and that it should do so this year. Meanwhile, the bars are kept in a safe at Caixa Econômica Federal in Manaus.

That Friday of 2020, Giannuzzi and Bellino gave their testimony and, as they were not indicted, they were able to return to the US. Nascimento was arrested and paid R$104,000 to get out of jail three days later.

His company’s actions indicate that he may have failed to keep his promise not to get involved in the gold trade again, which he had taken before the Court so that the preventive detention could be relaxed.

Fernanda Wenzel and Hyury Potter are fellows of the Pulitzer Center’s Rainforest Investigations Network.


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