Brazil police accuse agency bosses of misconduct in Amazon murder case

FILE PHOTO: Protest for journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, in Brasilia

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil's federal police recommended misconduct charges be filed on Friday against two ex-officials of Indigenous agency Funai in the case of a journalist and a native expert murdered last June in the Amazon rainforest.

The police said the two former officials failed to act on information ahead of the murders of British reporter Dom Phillips and Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira.

The police did not name the two former officials but state news outlet Agencia Brasil said they were Funai's former president Marcelo Xavier and former vice president Alcir Amaral Teixeira.

The two became aware at a Funai meeting held in 2019 and through other documents that the life of agency employees was at risk, but did not take the "necessary measures" to protect them, according to the federal police.

That, the police asserted, "culminated in the double homicide."

Reuters was not immediately able to locate the two former Funai officials, or their lawyers, to request comment.

Phillips, a freelance journalist who wrote for outlets including the British newspaper The Guardian and the Washington Post, was on a reporting trip with Pereira in the Amazon rainforest's Javari Valley.

The valley is a remote jungle area on the Peruvian border with Brazil that is home to the world's largest number of isolated Indigenous communities, as well as cocaine-smuggling gangs and illegal hunting and fishing rackets.

Pereira was formerly the head of isolated and recently contacted tribes for Funai.

The two men disappeared on June 5, and authorities found their bodies several days later.

Police have said the murders were planned by gang leader Ruben Dario da Silva Villar because Pereira was carrying out inspections of illegal fishing operations, causing losses to Villar's criminal group. Villar and three others have been charged with double homicide and concealment of corpses.

(This story has been corrected to clarify that Pereira was a former, not current, Funai official at the time of his disappearance, in paragraph 9)

(Reporting by Maria Carolina Marcello; Writing by Carolina Pulice; Editing by David Alire Garcia and Rosalba O'Brien)