People react after billionaire Joesley Batista, one of the owners of meat packer JBS, and executive Ricardo Saud were arrested in São Paulo, Brazil, on September 10 2017. Picture: REUTERS
People react after billionaire Joesley Batista, one of the owners of meat packer JBS, and executive Ricardo Saud were arrested in São Paulo, Brazil, on September 10 2017. Picture: REUTERS

São Paulo — Joesley Batista, the Brazilian tycoon who turned JBS into a global meat powerhouse, has handed himself in to police, the latest chapter of a scandal that has tipped Brazil back into political chaos and left his family’s business empire reeling.

J&F Investimentos, the holding company that controls JBS, confirmed that Batista and J&F executive Ricardo Saud had turned themselves into federal police in São Paulo, following a Supreme Court order for their arrest.

Earlier, Judge Edson Fachin issued the arrest warrants and the temporary suspension of the immunity granted in a plea-bargain agreement signed by the businessmen with Brazilian authorities in May.

The court’s decision follows a request for their arrest by Rodrigo Janot, the country’s chief prosecutor, who said that Batista and Saud left out information from testimony submitted to Brazilian prosecutors earlier this year, when they confessed to graft and other crimes.

According to the judge, if the two executives were left at liberty "they would find the same incentives directed to concealing part of the probative elements" of their testimony.

A statement issued by J&F said both men reasserted that they did not lie or omit information from their plea-bargain deal with prosecutors, and that they remained totally willing to contribute to justice.

In a separate statement, a lawyer for the two men said Janot’s decision to request their arrest despite their co-operation undermined the credibility of plea-bargain deals in general.

Audio recording

The alleged omissions came to light on September 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 criticised for treating Batista, and other executives connected to the case, too leniently.

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 Batista would have to pay, according to report published on Saturday by Brazilian newspaper Folha de S Paulo.

Bloomberg

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