British tourists Shanti Andrews and Rebecca Turner are being held in a Brazilian prison known as “Cell Zero-Zero” on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. The jail holds almost 150 prisoners accused of drug trafficking, robbery, and murder, and in these tourists’ case, alleged insurance fraud.
The two former English law graduates of Sussex University, who were due to fly home last Monday, told police they had been robbed while traveling to Rio from Foz do Iguacu, a popular tourist destination on Brazil’s border with Paraguay and Argentina.
Police records show that among the £1,000 worth of property the women said had been robbed was an Apple iPod Touch, a Canon 8015 NUS camera, and a laptop.
According to reports in the Brazilian press, the police immediately suspected something was wrong since the two women still had their passports. The police asked to be taken to the beachside hostel where the women were staying and, inside, they claim to have found the belongings that had supposedly been stolen in the women’s hostel’s lockers.
Rio’s tourist police say this “luggage trick,” by which tourists pretend to have been robbed in order to claim on insurance, is a growing trend in this seaside city.
“It’s another way of financing your trip,” said a European tourist who admitted to filing a fake police report at the same station in Rio in order to claim on insurance. “It’s one hour at the station in exchange for €700-800. That’s an air fare.”