(Adds details on police operation, context)
SAO PAULO, July 17 (Reuters) - Brazil’s federal police sought to arrest some 64 people on Tuesday as part of a cargo theft investigation, police said in a statement, as Latin America’s largest economy seeks to gain control over its increasingly insecure highways.
The operation, code-named “Transbordo,” uncovered a cargo theft scheme involving truck drivers in six Brazilian states, ranging from Ceará in the impoverished Northeast to Sao Paulo in the populous Southeast. The police, who estimated that losses resulting from the scheme surpassed 8.6 million reais ($2.22 million), also carried out 106 search warrants.
As part of the scheme, police said, complicit drivers would fake the attacks, give co-conspirators time to deactivate the trucks’ security mechanisms, and lodge false complaints with authorities.
The size and sophistication of the operation reflects the increasing seriousness of cargo theft in Brazil, where over 22,000 such robberies were recorded in two states alone - Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro - in 2017.
Major retailers operating in Brazil, ranging from Chile’s Cencosud SA to Via Varejo SA, an indirect subsidiary of France’s Casino Guichard Perrachon SA, have invested heavily to keep their goods from being stolen on the way to market. ($1 = 3.87 reais) (Reporting by Maria Clara Prestes; Writing by Gram Slattery and Carolina Mandl; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Jonathan Oatis)