BRASILIA – Federal prosecutors in Brazil have charged Joesley Batista, JBS SA shareholder; Francisco Assis, former JBS S.A. executive; and Marcello Miller, a former federal prosecutor, with corruption. Batista and Assis had been exempted from prosecution for confessing to bribery and agreeing to cooperate with authorities in a plea deal signed last year. The Brazilian Supreme Court is deciding whether to annul the plea, which former Prosecutor General Rodrigo Janot requested they do last September.
Lawyers representing Batista and Assis maintain their clients’ innocence, according to a report from Reuters.
From 2016 through 2017, the Batista name became linked to multiple criminal investigations including “Operation Weak Flesh” which exposed bribes paid to food safety inspectors in Brazil. Since that time, it’s been alleged that Batista and other JBS S.A. executives have bribed almost 2,000 politicians at all levels of government, including president Michel Temer. Brazil’s congress blocked corruption charges against Temer late last year.
In addition, federal prosecutors alleged that Joesley and Wesley Batista authorized the sale of millions of JBS shares weeks before submitting evidence of the bribes to 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 alleged. Prosecutors brought formal charges against the brothers in October 2017.