Push-back in the US
The following month, cattle producers and consumer groups in the United States made clear their concerns about meat products imported from Brazil and urged the Trump Administration to ban imports of Brazilian beef.
R-CALF launched a petition drive asking for a Brazilian beef ban and reinstatement of country of origin labeling. Food & Water Watch, an environmental advocacy group, urged then-Acting Agriculture Secretary Michael Young to revoke the meat inspection equivalency status of Brazil.
After months of uncertainty involving the Batistas and other JBS executives, the company announced that in May, seven executives of JBS and parent company J&F Investimentos, agreed to a plea bargain with federal prosecutors, including paying a fine of nearly $68 million. In addition to paying the fine, the executives agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in their anti-corruption investigations.
Around the same time, federal police and the National Economic and Social Development Bank (BNDES) launched “Operation Bullish,” an investigation into loans made by the bank’s subsidiary BNDESPAR. And in June, federal police raided the offices of JBS and FB Participações SA as part of an insider trading probe. The raid came three days after JBS had reached an agreement to sell its beef operations in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay to companies controlled by Minerva SA for $300 million.
Court documents would later show that Joesley Batista admitted making illegal payments to Michel Temer, the current president of Brazil, and former Presidents Dilma Rousseff and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. J&F Investimentos issued a statement confirming that undercover recordings taken by Joesley Batista were surrendered to prosecutors as part of the plea deal.
Under arrest, out of time
The insider trading investigation prompted the Supreme Court in Brazil to approve a warrant for Joesley Batista’s arrest – he surrendered to authorities. Police arrested Wesley Batista days later.
Federal prosecutors allege that Joesley and Wesley Batista authorized the sale of millions of JBS shares weeks before submitting evidence of bribes paid to nearly 2,000 Brazilian officials, knowing that the disclosures would cause the company’s share price to fall. The revelations sparked a sell-off on the Brazilian stock exchange, and trading was suspended temporarily. The Batistas later repurchased the shares at a significantly lower price, prosecutors allege.
Prosecutors brought formal charges against the brothers in October.
Speaking before a joint parliamentary committee inquiry into JBS assembled in November, Wesley Batista said he had no regrets about entering a plea deal with federal prosecutors. He said before making the deal “…we had no idea how much it would affect our lives, the lives of our families and our children.” He called the experience a process of deep personal and professional transformation.
Batista proclaimed his innocence, and denied ever violating the plea agreement with prosecutors.
The Batista brothers remain in pre-trial detention by federal police in São Paulo.