JBS's Batista Closer to Prison After Prosecutor's Arrest Request

Sep 13, 2017 4:01 pm ET

(Bloomberg) -- Joesley Batista, the Brazilian tycoon who turned JBS SA into a global meat powerhouse, is closer to being arrested for crimes he confessed to earlier this year, the latest chapter of a scandal that has tipped Brazil back into political chaos and left his family’s business empire reeling.

Prosecutor General Rodrigo Janot has recommended Batista’s arrest to Brazil’s Supreme Court, according to local newspapers, a move that would suspend the immunity granted in a plea-bargain agreement signed by the businessman with Brazilian authorities in May.

Ricardo Saud, a top executive at J&F Investimentos SA, the holding company that controls JBS, was also targeted by Janot’s arrest request, according to the reports, which cited sources that weren’t identified since the prosecutor’s recommendations aren’t public. Supreme Court Minister Edson Fachin will be responsible for analyzing the request, the newspapers reported.

The J&F press office said in written a statement that the company is “unaware of any information” regarding the alleged arrest requests for Batista and Saud. Pierpaolo Cruz Bottini, a lawyer who represents both men, said in a phone interview that he had no information on the request. He said his clients have made their passports available to Brazil’s Department of Justice, and that he filed a request that Batista and Saud are heard by the Supreme Court before any decision is made.

Audio Recording

The country’s chief prosecutor says Batista and Saud left out information from testimony submitted to Brazilian prosecutors earlier this year, when they confessed to graft and other crimes. The omissions came to light on Sept. 5, when a new audio recording emerged of a conversation between the pair. That discussion received blanket coverage in Brazilian media and followed the sensational broadcast in May of Batista’s recorded testimony, which earned him a plea bargain while creating a political crisis.

The latest tape raised questions over the terms of that agreement, which some have criticized for too leniently treating Batista and other executives connected with the case. Some of Batista’s remarks on the new recording, including a comment that he would never go to jail, have further enraged Brazilians.

In order to prevent the agreement from being fully scrapped, J&F and its executives are said to be discussing new terms with prosecutors, including raising the fines that Batista would have to pay, according to report published on Saturday by Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo.

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