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Brazilian meat processor fined for bribes that fueled US expansion

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In a related deal, JBS said it would pay the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission $ 26.8 million for accounting irregularities at its U.S. subsidiary Pilgrims Pride.

J&F legal counsel Lucio Martins Batista told the court his family’s company donated money and gifts, including a $ 1.5 million New York City apartment purchased through ” a shell company, with five Brazilian officials between 2005 and 2017 to obtain J&F financing from public banks. .

A portion of the proceeds from the financing agreements were used to finance JBS’s expansion into the United States, where within a few years from 2007 it acquired major competitors including Swift & Company and Pilgrims Pride.

At the time, the Brazilian economy was booming and the Batista family that controls J&F came to epitomize the fanatic brazillionaires whose commodity-focused companies relied on state funding to push aggressively. beyond the country’s borders.

Today’s actions send a strong message that we will not back down in our efforts to uphold the law and ask everyone to play by the same level playing field, said James Dawson, FBI Special Agent in charge in Washington, in a statement.

Today, companies controlled by J&F employ more than 250,000 people in 190 countries, according to its website.

Recipients of bribes include an anonymous official described as a senior executive at the national development bank BNDES between 2004 and 2006, who then held other senior positions in leftist governments under Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and her handpicked successor, Dilma Rousseff, until 2015.

These dates coincide with the career trajectory of Guido Mantega, who headed BNDES from 2004 to 2006 and was then finance minister of Lula and Rousseffs. A lawyer for Mantega did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but the former finance minister has denied any wrongdoing in the past.

The charges in US federal court come as the Batista family tries to clean up its reputation for corruption in Brazil and Latin America.

In 2017, J&F was fined a record $ 3.2 billion for its role in corruption scandals. The sanction has exceeded that imposed on Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, who in 2016 also took to US courts to settle his own spate of corruption charges around the world.

Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio and New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also pushed U.S. officials to investigate JBS’s ties to the Venezuelan socialist government. JBS had been a major seller of protein products to the Venezuelan government, which the United States sanctioned as part of its efforts to remove President Nicols Maduro from power.

Separately, Pilgrims Pride, controlled by JBS, one of the largest poultry producers in the United States, said on Wednesday it would pay $ 110.5 million to settle federal charges under which it helps set prices. of chickens and then passed on the higher costs to consumers.

Pilgrims is committed to fair and honest competition in accordance with US antitrust laws, said Fabio Sandri, CEO of Pilgrims. We are encouraged that today’s agreement ends the Antitrust Division investigation of the pilgrims, bringing certainty on this to our team members, suppliers, customers and our shareholders.

Associated Press writer David Biller reported this story in Rio de Janeiro and AP writer Joshua Goodman reported from Medellin, Colombia.

Joshua Goodman on Twiter: @APJoshGoodman

David Biller on Twitter: @DLBiller

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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