brasilianische Überfälle auf Osterfisch
Kicky : brasilianische Überfälle auf Osterfisch
April 14 (Bloomberg) -- Brazilians, true to their Portuguese roots, love bacalhau, or codfish that is dried and salted. So do thieves.
Thefts of bacalhau peak during Lent, the 40 days of fasting before Easter, when religious Catholics serve more fish and less meat. Cod has been overfished in its North Atlantic habitat, so the once-cheap staple is now a luxury in Brazil. Most is imported from Norway and sells for as much as 115 reais a kilogram ($25 a pound).
Where the faithful see a delicacy, bandits see profit. Theft is so common in Brazil, the world's largest Catholic nation, that many truckers refuse to haul the fish. Those who do hire armed guards and track their cargoes by satellite.
``If you're not vigilant, there's a gun in your face and your truck is gone,'' said Paulo Santos, 44, sales manager for Pascali, a Rio de Janeiro cod importer. ``It's a constant problem this time of year. By the time Easter comes around, the evidence has all been eaten.''
Codfish theft is part of a wider Brazilian problem of highway cargo hijacking. Gangs filling orders from corrupt shopkeepers steal an estimated $700 million a year from truckers, said Paulo Roberto de Souza, 60, a retired army colonel and security chief for the Sao Paulo Transport Federation.
``This is big business,'' he said. ``The leaders have real businesses and mix stolen and legitimate merchandise in their stores.''
While no separate figures exist for cod theft, food shipments are most coveted by bandits, accounting for a quarter of the 10,650 hijackings in 2005, Souza said. Drivers are killed in about one of every 1,000 of the crimes, he said. ..
In Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo's poor suburbs, bacalhau theft is endemic, Santos said. During Lent, stolen fish are frequently sold from wheelbarrows on street corners.
On April 12, dozens of people thought to be roadside squatters stopped trucks near Maceio carrying bacalhau and stole 6 metric tons of the fish, the GloboNews cable-television network reported, citing members of the Federal Highway Patrol.
With basic cuts of codfish retailing for 12 to 45 reais a kilo, the loss of a typical 25 metric-ton container of bacalhau could cost the importer $140,000 to $585,000. In one attack in the city of Santos in 2004, cargo bandits stole $275,000 of the fish, Souza said.
An Inside Job
Insiders are also a problem. One trucker who carried fish from the port of Rio de Janeiro to Sao Paulo capitalized on importers' expectations that customs agents at the docks would steal some of the cargo, said Jose de Fonseca Lopes, 64, head of the Brazilian Truckers Association.The driver made stops along the 450-kilometer (280-mile) Via Dutra, Brazil's busiest highway, selling fish to restaurants and then replacing the broken container lock and customs seal, Lopes said.When questioned about the lighter-than-expected load on arrival, he shrugged and said, ```Must have been those thieves in customs,''' Lopes said. ``They caught him with a case of 12 new locks. There were only two left.''
To protect their goods, companies are taking high-tech measures, said Rodrigo Gonzalez, 31, sales manager of Grupo La Rioja, Brazil's largest bacalhau importer. In addition to using armed guards and truck-tracking devices, Gonzalez hides small satellite transponders inside the fish crates themselves`These guys are very fast, and even if we find the truck, there's a good chance the cargo will be gone before we get there,'' he said in an interview.The measures are working: Gonzalez said he's had no thefts for several years. Gonzalez expects to sell 25 percent more this Easter season than a year ago, as a 30 percent gain in Brazil's currency against the dollar has made imports cheaper and codfish affordable for more Brazilians.