Robbery and Hostage-Taking at gebana Brazil

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At the beginning of June, a group of armed men broke into our production site in Campo Largo, Brazil and threatened the employees. What did the men want? We spoke about the incident with managing director Jonathas Baerle, who was there himself.

gebana Brasil

For 15 hours, the gebana employees in Campo Largo were at the mercy of armed robbers.

It was around 10 a.m. when four armed men stormed the gebana Brazil building in Campo Largo on June 4, 2021. The attackers immediately rounded up all employees and held them hostage until 3 a.m. the next morning.

One of our employees instinctively tried to flee, but the attackers caught him and he was slightly injured. Fortunately, all other employees were unharmed – at least physically. "We and our families and friends are traumatized," says Jonathas Baerle, managing director of gebana Brazil, on the phone. "Nobody expected that something like this would happen here."

Campo Largo Was Previously Considered Very Safe

An armed robbery of a soy processing plant does seem strange, even more so if you consider that the small town of Campo Largo, with some 130,000 inhabitants, was previously considered very safe compared to big cities like São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro. The town is far from any national borders, near the coast and is known for its ceramic and porcelain production. That’s why it also nicknamed the Capital da Louça, the Porcelain Capital.

According to Jonathas, the robbers’ target was the soybean oil produced by gebana Brazil. Yet that wasn’t immediately apparent, because the four men hadn’t brought a tanker with them. They probably assumed that gebana Brazil would have one on-site, which they could use to transport the oil. But that wasn’t the case.

In an effort to make up for their poor planning, the four men tried to find a tanker until the early hours of the morning. According to Jonathas, they had other accomplices on the street, but he couldn’t see them and therefore couldn’t tell how many there were. However, the robbers were clearly communicating with people outside the premises.

When it finally became apparent that the accomplices would not find a tanker, the four men changed their plan and opted to steal two cars from gebana. They loaded them with various tools and around 1000 litres of soybean oil in canisters before driving away.

The Police Immediately Released the Perpetrators

In the week following this bizarre attack, when the police finally dealt with the incident, they found the cars, some of the tools and even arrested two men. One of the two was later identified as one of the four attackers, as Jonathas relates. Yet the man was released the following day.

How can that be? "This is Brazil," replied Jonathas resignedly. Corruption is a big problem in the country. The arrested and released man is thought to have had an "agreement" with the police which allows them to "redeem" his attacks, says Jonathas.

The question remains: Why would these attackers target a soy processor? According to Jonathas, there are several factors at play. Unemployment in Brazil has risen sharply in recent years – from 11.9 percent in 2019 to almost 15 percent today – and the economy is weaker than ever before. The currency value of the Brazilian real has fallen by over 50% compared to the euro since the beginning of last year.

Prices for Soybean Oil and Soybeans Have Risen Sharply

At the same time, the prices for soybean oil have risen from around 3600 reals per tonne to almost 8000 reals since January 2020. The situation is similar for unprocessed soybeans. In January 2020, a tonne cost around 1600 reals, whereas it was 3400 reals in May of this year. When added to the corruption in the country, all of this encourages crime and violence, says Jonathas.

For gebana Brazil, the raid was an extreme event that took everyone by surprise. However, it was by no means the first time that gebana Brazil had been the target of thieves. During the soybean harvest between March and April of this year, seven soybean trucks were attacked and the raw materials were stolen.

Armed Security is Now Patrolling the Premises

The main consequence of this most recent incident is that the employees on the night shift – the factory runs 24 hours a day during peak periods in the months after the harvest – no longer dare to work. gebana Brazil has therefore installed new surveillance cameras and security systems in Campo Largo and hired an armed security service to patrol the site between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. It is regrettable that such measures are necessary, but gebana Brazil unfortunately has no other options at the moment.

Jonathas also anticipates that violence and crime will continue to increase in the next three to four years. The political and social situation, along with Jair Bolsonaro’s Covid-19 policy, is already generating more strikes, demonstrations and riots across the country, and the crime rate is sharply increasing.


Soybeans Monthly Price (accessed on 15.6.2021 at 10:00 a.m.)

Soybean Oil Monthly Price (accessed on 15.6.2021 at 10:00 a.m.)

EDA Traveling tips for Brazil (in German)

Protests against Bolsonaro’s coronavirus policies (accessed on 15.6.2021 at 1:00 p.m, in German only). See a similar report in Englisch (accessed on 4.12.2021 at 5:00 p.m.)

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