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Brazil in ‘fugitive haven’ fight

September 10th, 2009
"Great Train Robber" Ronnie Biggs

"Great Train Robber" Ronnie Biggs

Brazil has launched a campaign aimed at changing its image as a promising destination for fugitives escaping justice in other parts of the world.

The End of the Line project will involve increased vigilance at border entry points and an enhanced partnership with Interpol.

Police at Brazil’s airports, ports and border crossings will have access to an international database of suspects.

The project will also be targeting sex tourism and people trafficking.

Changing reality

The campaign reflects the unease in Brazil over the perception – at times in real life and frequently seen in films – that the country has been the destination of choice for everyone from former Nazis to wanted criminals.

Among those who have sought refuge here over the years was one of the so-called Great Train Robbers, Ronnie Biggs, who escaped from prison in England in 1965.

The principal weapon in this new police offensive will be a greater use of technology to identify suspects.

The initiative aims to counter what is regarded here as a sometimes stereotypical image, at a time when the authorities insist the reality is changing.

Posters produced in several languages warn that now is the “End of the Line” for criminals seeking to escape to Brazil.

The perception of South America’s largest country as a destination for international fugitives is based on a number of Hollywood movies stretching as far back as 1946 and the Alfred Hitchcock thriller Notorious.

The Brazilian newspaper Estado de Sao Paulo says that in the 1990s alone at least 60 films featured a storyline in which a seemingly successful criminal either escaped to Brazil, or as the final credits rolled, headed off to the airport smugly holding plane tickets to take them there.

It is not the first time that the authorities here have tried to counter this impression, but they appear to be approaching the task with renewed determination.

By Gary Duffy BBC News, Sao Paulo

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