Fri, Sep 15, 2017 - Page 10 News List

CEO of world’s largest meatpacker JBS arrested

FUTURE PLANNING:The Batista brothers, knowing that a plea would cause the stock to plummet, made large purchases on the futures markets, an investigator said

AP, SAO PAULO, Brazil

Brazilian police on Wednesday arrested the chief executive officer of the world’s largest meatpacker for allegedly using his own plea bargain to gain an advantage in financial markets.

Wesley Batista was taken into custody in Sao Paulo.

Batista and his brother, Joesley, the former chairman of JBS SA, have both entered agreements with prosecutors in which they testified that JBS paid bribes to scores of politicians, including Brazilian President Michel Temer.

Temer denies wrongdoing.

The Batistas have been at the center of Brazil’s near-operatic corruption investigation in recent weeks — a drama outlined by the plea-bargain signing of many witnesses.

The sprawling probe has uncovered an alleged scheme in which several companies paid millions of US dollars in bribes to politicians.

The investigation, the largest in Brazil’s history, has implicated several former presidents.

Former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, for instance, has already been convicted of corruption in one case.

Da Silva arrived at a court in the southeastern city of Curitiba on Wednesday to testify in another.

Executives from JBS have provided evidence for some of the most serious allegations, including claims that Temer arranged to receive millions in payouts in exchange for helping the meatpacker.

However, prosecutors have questioned whether Joesley Bastista and other executives might have withheld some information, violating their plea deals.

Wednesday’s accusations focused on the company’s activity in the weeks before their plea deals became public.

Police investigator Victor Hugo Rodrigues Alves said the Batistas knew that the plea bargains would affect stock prices and cause the Brazilian real to weaken against the US dollar and used that to their advantage.

A warrant for Joesley Batista’s arrest was also issued, but the executive has been in custody since Sunday following the questions about his plea testimony.

Between late April and mid-May, while negotiating their plea bargains, the brothers made large purchases of US dollars on the futures markets, Rodrigues Alves said.

During that period, their holding company also sold hundreds of millions of US dollars in JBS shares.

“The victims are not just JBS shareholders,” Rodrigues Alves said. “In a large context, the country is a victim, as the crimes shook the confidence of the market.”

Over the course of about 10 days in May, as word began leaking that the brothers were considering plea bargains that included damning accusations, JBS shares plummeted, losing nearly half of their value.

Pierpaolo Cruz Bottini, a lawyer for the Batista brothers, called the arrest “unjust, absurd and regrettable.”

His clients had cooperated with authorities at every step, he said, adding that they were being targeted by some within the government for having reached plea bargains.

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