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October 9, 2019

JBS’ business dealings reportedly called into question by US senators

Two US senators have reportedly called for an investigation into business deals struck by Brazilian meat processor JBS.

By Dean Best

Two US senators have reportedly called for an investigation into business deals struck by Brazilian meat processor JBS.

The Sao Paulo-based company has been part of an ongoing probe by Brazilian authorities, along with fellow meat packer BRF, into a corruption scandal dating back to 2017 which involved bribing government inspectors to overlook unsanitary conditions and practises. 

Last week, BRF admitted its part in the case, known as the Carne Fraca investigation, or “Weak Flesh” probe, as part of a leniency agreement being negotiated for its continued cooperation in the case. 

In a new development, Republican Senator Marco Rubio and his Democrat counterpart Bob Menendez have requested the US Treasury, via the Committee on Foreign Investment (Cfius), to review transactions made by the company along with its alleged dealings with the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, which is the subject of sanctions by the US, Bloomberg reported. 

The senators say JBS “engaged in illicit financial activities including bribing Brazilian government officials”, while they have also raised questions over the relationship with Maduro’s regime. 

Fellow news agency Reuters said President Donald Trump has imposed sanctions on dozens of top Venezuelan officials as well as state oil company PDVSA in an effort to remove Maduro, whom it accuses of fixing elections last year and abusing human rights. 

In a company statement seen by Reuters, JBS said it had always cooperated “transparently” with US authorities regarding “passed events” in Brazil. 

The senators made the claims in a letter to US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in which they asked Cfius to “conduct a review of JBS’ acquisition of US companies.”

JBS is owned by the Batista family via controlling shareholder J&F Participacoes, and some of its members have been implicated in the corruption probe. Former chairman Joesley Batista stepped down in 2017 amid his links to the Weak Flesh case, and was also allegedly involved in illegal political funding. He and is brother Wesley Batista, the former chief executive, were also accused of insider trading.

During the course of 2017, JBS snapped up US pork processor Plumrose USA, adding to its stake in another American meat packer Pilgrim’s Pride, which in turn had bought GNP in 2016.

The senators wrote in their letter that Cfius should investigate the business transactions conducted by JBS, the Venezuelan Corporation of Foreign Trade and Diosdado Cabello, an ally of Maduro who is under US sanctions, Reuters reported.

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