Wife of Brazilian Soccer Star Accused of Money Laundering for Alleged Betting Syndicate

Law enforcement authorities across Brazil are concluding an immense investigation involving organized criminality, unlawful gambling, and money laundering. They have already apprehended two dozen individuals, including the spouse and father-in-law of a renowned soccer player.

Pedro Guilherme and his wife, Fernanda Nogueira, in a social media image. She is being charged of being part of a large-scale money laundering network, while Guilherme is reportedly not implicated. (Image: Metrópoles )

The Rio Grande do Sul (RS) Civil Police have charged 24 persons for their participation in the plot. The suspects started to be apprehended last Friday when the police conducted search and seizure warrants in a condominium in Barra da Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro , seizing two armoured cars in the process.

Though the Department of Criminal Investigations did not divulge the identities of the accused, local media outlets have done their part in uncovering the mystery. Media source G1 uncovered that among them are psychologist Fernanda Nogueira, the wife of Flamengo striker Pedro Guilherme, and her father, entrepreneur Vanderlei Gonçalves Nogueira.

Significant Role In Organized Crime

An inquiry, named Operation Fratelli , determined that the father and daughter organized the scheme in RS but live in Rio de Janeiro. They are partners in a real estate rental firm based in RS, which they used to hide the assets. Pedro, who was part of Brazil’s World Cup appearance last year, is not under examination.

All of the people arrested face accusations of money laundering and organized criminal activity. Up to now, police have frozen at least BRL30 million (US$5.91 million) in assets of the group.

The group allegedly formed, ran, and managed unlawful betting connected to “jogo do bicho ” (literal translation, animal game). It is a type of lottery that has been criminalized in Brazil, excluding in Paraiba, for 77 years.

Its unlawful condition has not prevented it from being extremely popular and millions of dollars are wagered each year. Nevertheless, the lawful system has in general concluded that it is merely a channel for laundering money since wagers of any size are allowed.

Jogo do bicho’s legendary status is shown in the recent raids and arrests. The police did not target the game itself, only the money laundering aspect related to it.

This is not the first time that the elder Nogueira has been targeted by the Department of Criminal Investigations. In 2012, he faced allegations of unlawful gambling, and, in December 2020, an examination targeted him as the head of a money-laundering outfit in Rio de Janeiro.

Bringing Down the House

The inquiry behind Operation Fratelli lasted two years. It culminated in 173 warrants in two states and 10 cities this week. These include 45 search and seizure warrants, three preventive arrest warrants, 125 bank blocking orders and 23 property unavailability.

The Civil Police declared in a statement that the criminal syndicate was based in Vale dos Sinos and has ties with a national faction situated in São Paulo. Aside from the money laundering accusations, it also provided narcotics to the extreme south neighbourhoods of Porto Alegre and São Leopoldo.

The organisation is also charged of extortion in Porto Alegre. It reportedly compelled inhabitants of a community there to pay for asphalting, with the goal of enhancing drug trade paths. The asphalt work was completed, although local officials did not interfere.

Despite the massive number of apprehensions, the investigation is ongoing.