Two former executives of Brazilian meat giant BRF have been referred to federal prosecutors by police in connection with an investigation into alleged fraud in 2017. 

Abilio Diniz, who served as chairman of the firm, and ex-chief executive Pedro de Andrade Faria are alleged to have not disclosed damaging information when they were at the company, according to a report from Reuters, citing official documents seen by the news agency.

The case revolves around the so-called Carne Fraca or ”weak-flesh” probe in 2017 into alleged bribes paid by company officials in Brazil’s meat industry to government inspectors to overlook unsanitary conditions and practises. As a result of the investigation, the European Union banned 12 BRF production facilities in Brazil in May from exporting to the trading bloc.

And in March this year, Faria, who held the CEO role at BRF between 2015 and 2017, was arrested by police on charges he engaged in fraud to evade food safety checks, although it is unclear whether he was ever formally charged.

According to the documents seen by Reuters, among the evidence that police collected were a series of WhatsApp messages and emails exchanged between the two executives, the news agency said.

Allegations have also reportedly been made against 41 other people in connection with the weak-flesh probe.

BRF has issued its own statement, saying on Monday (15 October) that “the Company has decided to preventively grant a leave to all employees referred in the Federal Police’s final report until all facts are clarified.”

The company added: “BRF is engaging in a vast and transparent dialogue with the authorities in charge of the investigations, with the intention to cooperate with the elucidation of the facts. At the same time, it will proceed with the internal valuations led by the Independent Investigation Committee, related to the Statutory Audit Committee, with the intention to clarify all the facts that were or that may be raised.

“The Company understands that this cooperation process with the authorities strengths and consolidates the changes and the developments that BRF has implemented in its processes and internal rulings, in order to guarantee the highest safety, integrity and quality standards.”   

Reuters noted that it will be up to federal prosecutors whether to file a complaint based on the police findings, whether to ask for an additional investigation or whether to end the inquiry based on a lack of evidence for criminal charges.