Brazilian company fined record $3.2B for bribes

J&F group, parent company of the world's biggest meat supplier JBS, agreed to pay the fine over a corruption scandal threatening to unseat President Michel Temer. It's said to have spent around $185 million to bribe nearly 1900 politicians in Brazil.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Last month J&F implicated implicated President Michel Temer in an alleged plot to silence a witness in the scandal.

J&F group, the parent company of the world's biggest meat supplier JBS, has agreed to pay a record fine of $3.2 billion over a corruption scandal threatening to bring down Brazil's president Michel Temer, prosecutors said on Wednesday.

The payment will be "the biggest sum for a leniency agreement signed in Brazil or in the world," the federal prosecutor's office in capital Brasilia said.

The agreement, to be signed in "the next few days," parcels out payments over 25 years, adjusted for inflation, prosecutors said in a statement. The amount is the equivalent of about 5.6 percent of J&F revenues, they said.

J&F confirmed the terms of the leniency agreement in an emailed statement.

The deal follows bombshell state's witness testimony from J&F's owners Joesley and Wesley Batista that the company spent around $185 million to bribe nearly 1900 politicians in recent years deepened Brazil's political crisis, that threatens to topple President Michel Temer.

People attend a protest against Brazil's President Michel Temer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, May 28, 2017. The sign reads: "Temer the corrupt naive". (Reuters)

Joesley Batista is at the center of a corruption investigation into Temer, after secretly recording a conversation in which the president appeared to condone bribing a potential witness. Other JBS executives in plea-bargain testimony accused Temer of taking nearly $5 million in bribes from the company in recent years.

The JBS testimony was the most damaging yet to Brazil's political class, hitting virtually all major figures past and present. It included allegations that former presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff received $80 million in bribes in offshore accounts.

Fine surpasses "Car Wash" scandal fine

The record payment surpasses the previous biggest fine paid by the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, which is at the centre of the sprawling corruption scandal shaking Brazil known as "Car Wash."

Fallout from Odebrecht — which systematically bribed politicians to win sweetheart contracts with the state oil company Petrobras — has already seen scores of powerful political and business leaders put under investigation for bribery and embezzlement.

President Temer accused of silencing witnesses

However, the most explosive development came last month when the owners of J&F — whose holdings also include the trendy flip flop brand Havaianas — implicated President Michel Temer in an alleged plot to silence a witness.

Prosecutors say that Temer agreed to J&F owner Joesley Batista's plan to pay hush money to the former speaker of the lower house of Congress, Eduardo Cunha, who is in prison for his part in the "Car Wash" scandal.

Batista and his brother Wesley have testified against Temer under plea bargains. The president is so far resisting multiple calls for his resignation, saying he did nothing wrong.

TRTWorld and agencies