Brazil’s federal police on Saturday arrested five more men in an investigation into the killing of British journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous expert Bruno Pereira in the Amazon rainforest in June.
Police said in a statement that seven arrest warrants have been issued for illegal fishing in the Vale do Javari region, the remote area near the border with Colombia and Peru where Phillips and Pereira disappeared on June 5.
The region has been invaded by illegal fishermen, loggers, and gold miners . Police say it is a key drug trafficking route.
Phillips, a freelance reporter who wrote for The Guardian and the Washington Post, was researching a book about the trip with Pereira, a former chief of recently contacted and isolated tribes at the federal Funai indigenous affairs agency.
Two of the seven suspects were already in custody: Rubén Darío da Silva Villar, known as “Colombia,” and fisherman Amarildo Costa de Oliveira, known as “Pelado,” who was arrested in June as the main suspect in the murder.
According to the police, Da Silva Villar would be the leader and financier of an armed criminal gang dedicated to illegal fishing that was smuggled to neighboring countries.
Three of the newly arrested men, whose names were not released, are relatives of Amarildo and were involved in hiding the bodies of Phillips and Pereira, police said.
Pereira, a former head of the federal agency for indigenous affairs Funai, had previously clashed with Amarildo over illegal fishing within indigenous territory.
Federal prosecutors said Phillips was killed so he couldn’t identify the killers.