by Julia Leite and Gerson Freitas Jr.
Joesley Batista, the meat tycoon at the center of a scandal that almost toppled the Brazilian government last year, was detained by police amid a probe linked to the sprawling Carwash investigation.
Police were serving 18 arrest warrants and another 56 search and seizures on an illegal campaign financing scheme and corruption of high-ranking members of the Agriculture Ministry between 2014 and 2015, according to a statement from Brazil’s tax agency. The probe is centered in Brazil’s Minas Gerais state, but warrants are also being carried out in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Paraiba and Mato Grosso states.
Joesley Batista was released from jail in March, weeks after his older brother Wesley Batista, the former chief executive officer of JBS SA. The brothers, who control the meatpacking giant, had been in jail for about six months as they battled insider-trading accusations and, in Joesley’s case, allegedly concealing information during plea bargain negotiations. The brothers became the center of a scandal that rocked Brazil in 2017 after they reached an agreement with authorities to testify about a long-running scheme to bribe politicians including President Michel Temer. Prosecutors later asked for the plea deals signed by both brothers to be revoked.
Joesley has cooperated with the judiciary and the order for his temporary arrest is “strange,” his lawyer Andre Callegari said in a message sent by a press official for the family’s holding company, J&F Investimentos. He added that Joesley has testified and given several documents in the case, and said he will give “all the clarifications needed.”
JBS fell as much as 5.2% in early trading in Sao Paulo, erasing this month’s gains. It was down 0.9% as of 10:38 a.m. local time.
The news of the brothers’ plea deal and later arrest sent markets plunging, and caused JBS to temporarily abandon plans to sell shares in New York. The company appointed their father, 84-year-old Jose Batista Sobrinho, as CEO. The meatpacker’s shares and bonds eventually rebounded as it renegotiated its debt with banks and quickly sold assets. Meat operations in the U.S., which account for more than two-thirds of JBS’s revenues, have benefited from rising demand both at home and abroad.
--With assistance from Fernando Travaglini.
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