SAO PAULO – Brazil’s Federal Police searched on Monday the residence of a wealthy businessman who has accused President Michel Temer of corruption and also combed through the home of a former federal prosecutor.
Joesley Batista, co-owner and former chairman of Brazilian meatpacking giant JBS, surrendered on Sunday to police after Luis Edson Fachin, the Supreme Court justice overseeing the case, ordered his arrest.
Batista has served as a key witness for prosecutors investigating corruption at the highest levels, providing evidence that led to criminal charges being filed against Temer in late June.
Police officers also raided the residence of Ricardo Saud, a JBS executive who also was arrested on Sunday.
Batista and Saud were ordered held in preventive detention after the disclosure last week of a recorded conversation that seemed to indicate they had hid some of what they knew about different corruption schemes in Brazil.
Batista had been provisionally released after striking a plea deal with prosecutors that guaranteed him immunity from prosecution in exchange for his cooperation in identifying the nearly 1,000 politicians – including Temer – he allegedly bribed to secure favors for his conglomerate, J&F Investimentos.
Fachin accepted the request for the detention of Batista and Saud, but denied a petition to jail former prosecutor Marcelo Miller, accused of coaching the meatpacking executives on how to gain the most from their plea bargain arrangements with prosecutors.
Some benefits granted to Batista and Saud as part of their plea deals have been temporarily suspended pending a final decision by the high court.
With the Supreme Court’s authorization, police also raided Miller’s Rio de Janeiro residence in a search for documents that might prove an illegal arrangement with the JBS executives.
Attorneys for Miller, in a statement, vehemently denied that their client had engaged in double-dealing or acted in violation of the law.
Batista and Saud spent Sunday night at the Federal Police’s lockup in Sao Paulo and were to be taken Monday to Brasilia, where they will remain under detention.
The JBS executive told prosecutors that he had paid bribes to Temer since 2010 and continued to do so even after the latter became president last year.
As part of the plea deal, Batista and his brother and co-owner of JBS, Wesley Batista, handed prosecutors a secretly taped audio recording in which Temer appeared to say that bribes needed to continue to flow to former lower-house speaker Eduardo Cunha.
Cunha is one of the highest-profile politicians to be sentenced to prison in the sprawling Lava Jato (Car Wash) investigation into a $2 billion bribes-for-inflated contracts scheme centered on state oil company Petrobras.
Temer became the first sitting president in Brazilian history to face criminal charges, although his allies in the lower house of Congress voted to shelve those charges last month.
Even so, Attorney General Rodrigo Janot has said that before his tenure expires on Sunday he will present new corruption charges against Temer.
It remains to be seen, however, how the new revelations against Joesley Batista will affect those plans, with Temer’s attorney, Antonio Claudio Mariz, saying Sunday that he would seek to have all the “supposed evidence” gathered against the president through testimony from the JBS owners disallowed, adding that it was legally invalid.
Janot, however, said the revision of Batista’s plea deal would not invalidate his accusations or the evidence he presented.