SAO PAULO – Brazil’s Federal Police raided on Friday the headquarters of meatpacking giant JBS, a company whose owners have leveled damaging accusations against President Michel Temer as part of a plea deal.
The court-ordered operation in Sao Paulo was conducted in coordination with the CMV securities regulator, which has launched nine investigations into JBS over a series of alleged irregularities, the Federal Police said in a statement.
JBS is accused of having carried out suspicious transactions just prior to the eruption last month of a massive scandal triggered by its accusations against Brazil’s head of state, including buying an unusually high amount of dollar contracts and selling a large amount of the company’s stock.
The company made huge profits on those deals when Brazil’s markets were rattled last month by allegations by JBS’s owners that Temer encouraged the payment of hush money to a former top lawmaker.
As part of a plea deal, Joesley and Wesley Batista – owners of JBS, the world’s biggest meatpacking company – handed prosecutors a secretly taped audio recording in which the president appeared to say that bribes needed to continue to flow to Eduardo Cunha, an ex-speaker of Brazil’s lower house of Congress convicted of corruption and sentenced to a more than 15-year prison term.
Cunha, who is one of the most prominent political figures to be ensnared in a $2 billion bribes-for-inflated contracts scandal centered on state oil company Petrobras, spearheaded the effort that led last year to then-President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment and eventual removal from office for violating budget laws.
She was replaced by Temer, who was her vice president from 2011 until last year.
The Batistas also said in their testimony that the rapid rise of JBS to the status of global animal protein powerhouse was the result of the payment of bribes totaling 600 million reais (some $187.5 million) to 1,829 politicians from 28 parties.
The politicians on the take, the Batistas told prosecutors, included two former presidents – Rousseff and her political mentor and predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva – and Temer.
All three deny any wrongdoing.
The Supreme Court, which has jurisdiction over cases involving sitting lawmakers, has launched an investigation into Temer for alleged corruption, obstruction of justice and criminal conspiracy based on the Batistas’ allegations.