Brazilian meat giant owner pays record graft fine

Brazilian meat giant owner pays record graft fine

BRASILIA: J&F group, the parent company of the world's biggest meat supplier JBS, has agreed to pay a record fine of US$3.2 billion over a corruption scandal threatening to bring down Brazil's president, prosecutors said on Wednesday (May 31).

The 10.3 billion reais payment will be "the biggest sum for a leniency agreement signed in Brazil or in the world," the federal prosecutor's office in 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 per cent of J&F revenues, they said.

The record payment surpasses the previous biggest fine paid by the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, which is at the center 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.

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.

Shares in JBS lost 30 per cent of their value when the scandal broke. They were up five per cent in trading on Wednesday.

Source: AFP/de