JBS chiefs enter plea bargain amid bribery claims

JBS executives, including Wesley Batista, were collectively fined $66m

Seven executives of Brazilian meatpacker JBS, including the billionaire Batista brothers who run the company, have entered a plea bargain in yet another corruption scandal.

Wesley and Joesley Batista are two of the seven executives that signed a plea bargain with Brazil’s Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office in exchange for reduced sentences, according to the Financial Times.

In a statement sent to shareholders on 18 May, JBS said: “Seven executives of the company and its controlling entity, J&F Investimentos, entered into a plea bargain agreement with the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office, which was ratified by the Supreme Court.

The agreement establishes the payment of a fine totalling R$225 million by these executives, as well as their cooperation with the Public Prosecutor’s Office regarding all matters disclosed to the authorities, amongst other obligations.

Presidential crisis

JBS did not disclose what the plea bargain relates to but it may be linked to an explosive allegation levelled at embattled Brazil President Michel Temer.

Brazil’s Supreme Court this week opened an investigation into Temer after a leaked audio recording surfaced allegedly capturing him condoning JBS executive Joesley Batista to bribe politician Eduardo Cunha.

It is unclear if Joesley Batista did in fact bribe Cunha.

Nevertheless, Temer, who denies any wrongdoing, is facing massive pressure to step down after Joesley Batista gave a recording of his conversation with the president to the authorities. This evidence may have formed part of the plea bargain, but JBS could not be reached for comment.

Rotten meat scandal

Alongside this shocking news, JBS confirmed on 12 May that Brazilian authorities opened an investigation into loans the meat processor received from development bank BNDES. In a statement at the time, JBS said: “investments made by BNDES… are fully compliant with the Brazilian capital markets legislation and devoid of preferential treatment or benefits to JBS.

In March, JBS was hit by the ‘Weak Flesh’ meat scandal after police raided three of its facilities: two in Paraná and one in Goiá.

The company has denied any wrongdoing despite one employee facing federal police investigation.

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