January 23, 2018
Friday, May 19, 2017

Batistas latest deal drags country into fresh crisis

By taking their father’s slaughterhouse in the Brazilian countryside and building the world’s largest meat producer, Wesley and Joesley Batista earned reputations as consummate dealmakers. Their latest bargain, which may be their boldest yet, has dragged the country and its president into a crisis.

The brothers, who control and run meat giant JBS, are among seven company executives who signed a plea-bargain agreement with Brazilian authorities in exchange for reduced sentences, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified. The accord related to investigations into transactions between JBS, the Batistas’ holding company, and state-run banks and pensions funds, the person said. As part of that agreement, the brothers submitted to the Supreme Court a recording that shows President Michel Temer approving a payment to Eduardo Cunha. In return, the Batistas agreed to pay 225 million reais (US$67 million) in fines, and will face no trial, O Globo reported. If nothing else, the revelations illustrate how deeply embedded the Batistas are in both the country’s business and political life. JBS and other companies under the J&F umbrella have financed almost a third of representatives in Brazil’s Lower House. They doled out a record 387 million reais in donations in the 2014 elections, according to Brazil’s electoral tribunal. JBS was the biggest campaign donor that year for the re-election of Dilma Rousseff, as well as for the loser in the race, Aécio Neves.

More recently, JBS has struggled amid several investigations. They include a probe known in Brazil as “Weak Flesh,” which concerns allegations that meat producers including JBS paid bribes to federal inspectors to clear the sale of tainted meat. JBS has denied any wrongdoing.

— Bloomberg

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