More than 50 federal police officers served five arrest warrants - two preventive and three temporary - and 14 search and seizure warrants issued by the 2nd Federal Court of the Salvador Judiciary Section.

At issue is Operation Ikaro II, the second phase of Operation Ikaro, unleashed in the cities of Salvador, Lauro de Freitas and Porto Seguro, in Bahia, and in Ponta Porã, in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, on the border with Paraguay.

According to the Federal Police, the group's modus operandi was to co-opt 'mules' [the name given to people used by drug traffickers to transport drugs] to carry them on commercial flights to Europe, usually hiding the drugs in their luggage.

In this regard, between January and February last year, the Brazilian authorities made seven flagrant arrests at the international airports Luís Eduardo Magalhães, in Salvador, and Galeão, in Rio de Janeiro.

"In most cases, these were couples who were trying to transport cocaine to Lisbon, Portugal, concealed in their suitcases," the PF explained in a statement.

"The similarity of the mode of action and circumstances led to the identification of the involvement of the same criminal organisation in all cases, whose members are being targeted by the judicial measures served on the present date," the police added.

According to authorities, those investigated will be indicted for the crimes of criminal organisation and international drug trafficking.

The Brazilian federal court also ordered the blocking of funds deposited in bank accounts in the names of 11 people under investigation.

Despite not having its own cocaine production, Brazil is one of the main points of passage of drugs from other Latin American countries to Europe, and Portugal has become one of the gateways of shipment of drugs to the European continent.

On 2 March, the Brazilian foreign minister told Lusa that his country's priority was to increase cooperation with Europe against drug trafficking, but denied that the country was the problem on the routes to the European continent.

Asked about the recent seizure, in Bahia, of over 500 kilograms of cocaine in the fuselage of a private jet bound for Portugal, whose passenger list included João Loureiro, former president of Boavista, Minister Ernesto Araújo stressed that the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries (CPLP) should also make a greater joint effort in the fight against organised crime.