Brazil Amazon loggers arrested

Police arrest one of the arrested charged with deforestation in Amazon region Giovany Marcelino Pascoal was among those arrested on deforestation charges

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Brazilian police conducting an operation against a gang suspected of destroying large tracts of the Amazon rainforest have arrested eight people.

A police spokesman said six other suspects were still on the run.

The gang is accused of invading, logging and burning large areas of public land and selling these illegally for farming and grazing.

The group is believed to have committed crimes worth more than $220m (£134m).

The police operation covers four Brazilian states including Sao Paulo.

'Impunity'

The BBC's Wyre Davies in Rio de Janeiro says political and police corruption is still rife in Brazil's interior which means that loggers and illegal miners are able to operate with impunity.

The Amazon rainforest on June 15, 2012, near Altamira, Brazil. The Amazon rainforest is home to half of the planet's remaining tropical forest

Announcing the operation on Wednesday, the police said: "The Federal Police carried out today Operation Chestnut Tree designed to dismantle a criminal organisation specialising in land grabbing and environmental crimes in the city of Novo Progresso, in the south-western region of Para.

"Those involved in these criminal actions are considered the greatest destroyers of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest."

'Fifty years'

The group members face charges of invading public land, theft, environmental crimes, forgery, conspiracy, tax evasion and money laundering.

They could be sentenced to up to 50 years in jail, although the maximum length that can be served by law in a Brazilian prison is 30 years.

Last year, the Brazilian government said the rate of deforestation in the Amazon increased by 28% between August 2012 and July 2013, after years of decline.

It made a commitment in 2009 to reduce Amazon deforestation by 80% by the year 2020.

Brazil is home to the biggest area of Amazon rainforest, a vast region where one in 10 known species on Earth and half of the planet's remaining tropical forests are found, according to the leading conservation organisation WWF.

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