Rio de Janeiro, May 1 (IANS/EFE) Authorities in the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro Tuesday launched an operation to arrest 78 people, including 60 police officers, accused of making up a corruption network that extorted bribes from street vendors and drivers of gypsy cabs.
The arrest warrants were requested during the course of an investigation begun six months ago by the intelligence division of the state public safety department.
The majority of the police officers accused of corruption belong to the 14th Battalion, which is responsible for guaranteeing public order in Bangu, a region in western Rio de Janeiro.
Investigators verified via court-authorized video surveillance and wiretaps the existence of a network devoted to extorting street vendors in Bangu and the nearby neighbourhood of Honorio Gurgel.
"We have videos in which the police officers (are) receiving money from the businessmen and afterwards dividing it in official vehicles. This is all documented," said assistant secretary of intelligence, Favio Galvao.
The cops demanded bribes from the vendors to allow them to sell pirated products and stolen items and from some motorcycle owners to allow them to offer services as taxi drivers despite lacking licenses to do so.
Police are also accused of distributing among different vendors pirated products seized in operations against those vendors who refused to pay the bribes.