Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations worked with Brazilian authorities to stop neo-Nazis from planning and executing a mass-casualty attack on New Year’s Eve in São Paulo.
According to Brazil’s Ministry of Justice and Public Security, four arrest warrants and 31 search-and-seizure warrants were executed Thursday in the states of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul as part of Operation Bergon, which targeted antisemites and neo-Nazis networking online and threatening acts of violence.
The operation, which was launched in May in response to neo-Nazi groups using online platforms based in the United States to stoke violence against Jewish and black civilians, was named for Sister Denise Bergon, a French nun who saved 83 Jewish children from the Nazis during World War II. She was honored by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations in 1980.
The neo-Nazi activity was monitored by Brazil’s Secretariat of Integrated Operations’ Cyber Operations Laboratory and critical information was shared with U.S. counterparts at HSI at the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia between May and November.
“While executing the search warrants, Brazil police found homemade explosives, weapons, Nazi paraphernalia, and detailed plans of future attacks,” ICE said of the raids. “One of the perpetrators later stated that he was planning to use these explosives during a New Year’s celebration in the state of São Paulo.”
HSI Brasilia shared information with Brazilian authorities at the outset of the investigation about “multiple planned mass casualty attacks at local schools and other public locations throughout Brazil.” Rio de Janeiro Civil Police then arrested a suspect on May 12 who reportedly had electronic devices that yielded information about potential targets and networking among extremists.
“Through continued investigative collaboration, members of dangerous anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi cells were apprehended before they caused a possible mass casualty event,” said HSI Brasilia Acting Attaché Patrick Chen. “The success of Operation Bergón is a prime example of the importance of international partnerships in dismantling criminal organizations that threaten public safety and innocent lives.”