Brazilian billionaire Batista surrenders to police in corruption scandal

By Ed Adamczyk Contact the Author   |   Sept. 11, 2017 at 1:37 PM
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Sept. 11 (UPI) -- Brazilian billionaire Joesley Batista, accused of hiding evidence in a plea bargain case, surrendered to police in Sao Paolo.

Batista, former chief of JBS, the world's largest meatpacking company, was to present a recording he secretly made of Brazilian President Michel Temer allegedly confirming that Temer paid bribes to influential Brazilian politicians. Batista said he would reveal information about the alleged corruption scheme in exchange for lenient judicial treatment, but has not yet handed over the audio tape; he was given until last week to surrender it, and was ordered arrested by the Brazilian Supreme Court. He surrendered on Sunday.

Under the plea bargain, Batista and his brother Wesley admitted to complicity in attempting to bribe nearly 1,900 Brazilian politicians over several years. The court decision to arrest Batista came after the federal chief prosecutor said that Batista and Ricardo Saud, and executive of J&F Investimentos SA, JBS' holding company, omitted information from submitted testimony earlier this year in which they confessed to graft and other crimes.

The alleged omissions came to light last week, when an audio recording of a conversation between Batista and Saud was inadvertently sent to the prosecutor's office. While both men denied that false information was contained on the audio tape, their credibility as witnesses was weakened. The episode has become another part of a continuing scandal of graft and corruption enveloping Brazilian government and business leaders.

In the 4-hour tape, Saud can be heard telling Batista former prosecutor Marcello Miller was working to influence current chief prosecutor Rodrigo Jadot to offer Batista and Saud a more lenient plea deal. Miller resigned immediately after the tape was made; its release to the public, including a comment by Batista that he would never go to jail, enraged Brazilians already angered by the plea deal.

Batista's imprisonment will likely boost Temer's short-term popularity, Bloomberg News said Monday. Temer's allies in Brazil's lower house defeated a motion in July that would have forced him to temporarily resign the presidency and face a corruption trial; since then he has focused less on the corruption scandal and more on Brazil's economic problems.

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