Sergio Roberto de Carvalho, top right. / sur

One of the world’s most wanted drug traffickers, who faked his own Covid death in Marbella, has finally been captured

The story reads like a movie script but he was eventually tracked down in an operation which used intelligence provided by a number of countries including the USA, Brazil, Portugal and Spain

JUAN CANO Malaga

Justice has finally caught up with Sergio Roberto de Carvalho. Not divine justice, a very terrestrial one: after three years on the run, dodging police around the world and even faking his own death from Covid in Marbella, Carvalho, considered one of the biggest drug-traffickers in the world, has been arrested.

He was caught in Budapest by Hungarian police working in collaboration with America's Drug Enforcement Administration and Europol, in an operation which used intelligence provided by a number of counries including the USA, Brazil, Portugal and Spain.

The story of Sergio Roberto de Carvalho sounds like a film script. This Brazilian national, who was expelled from the army for drug trafficking and money laundering, has leapt from one country to another like an escape artist. Spanish police even photographed him in Portugal, but he always managed to avoid being caught and wiped out all traces of where he had been.

The Brigada Central de Estupefacientes (BCE) considers him one of the biggest drug traffickers of recent years. After leaving Brazil he took refuge in Marbella, using the name Paul Wouter, a 57-year-old Suriname national. That identity didn’t last long, because police investigation Titán II associated him with a haul of 1,700 kilos of cocaine which had been sent to Galicia. A total of 19 people were accused of involvement in that drug operation.

Death from Covid

The prosecution wanted Paul Wouter to be jailed for 13 years and started putting together the case against him. However, days later, the court in Galicia which was handling the case received a death certificate in the name of Paul Wouter. The pandemic provided the perfect alibi for his death not to be investigated, nor was an autopsy carried out. Wouter had died from Covid-19 at his home in Marbella – on paper, at least. The certificate was dated 29 August 2020 and appeared to have been signed by a local doctor. It also said Wouter had been cremated.

Soon afterwards, the Brazilian authorities warned their counterparts in Spain – who had shelved the case against him – that Wouter’s fingerprints matched those of Sergio Roberto de Carvalho. They were the same person. At that point Interpol, the Brazilian authorities and Spanish police suspected that this supposed death was just an attempt to put them off the trail, so they continued their search for him.

They now believe that after faking his death, he crossed into Portugal and escaped from there in private planes to Dubai or Ukraine, where he obtained another false identity so he could continue to move around unnoticed. It didn’t work. The DEA located him in Budapest, and now he has finally been caught.