By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Federal Court in the state of Paraná accepted the five complaints filed by the Federal Public Prosecutor yesterday (April 25th) against 59 investigated in the context of the Operação Carne Fraca (Operation Poor Meat), which was launched in March by the Federal Police (PF).
Now agricultural inspectors, refrigeration business owners and other members of the scheme become defendants and will have ten days to present their defense.
In their dispatches, the federal judge of the 14th Circuit Court of Curitiba, Marcos Josegrei da Silva, affirms that there is sufficient evidence of “materiality and authorship” of crimes.
Operação Carne Fraca also revealed the involvement of inspectors from the Ministry of Agriculture in a scheme to release licenses and irregular inspection of slaughterhouses through the receipt of undue advantages.
Last week, the Federal Public Prosecutor had requested the indictment of sixty people, but Judge Josegrei da Silva considered that one of them had committed a crime of lesser offensive potential. In the complaints, the agency says that the investigations found adulteration of food products and use of substance not allowed in some refrigeration units.
Evidence of the illicit practice of members of the criminal scheme are built from testimony, telephone monitoring and breach of fiscal and banking secrecy according to the prosecutors.
The MPF asks the courts to declare the removal from the public offices of all federal civil servants, confiscation of the direct and indirect gains of the criminal practice of those involved and the establishment of a minimum amount of compensation for damages.
In March, the operation led the Ministry of Agriculture to remove 33 officials involved in the corruption scheme. Several countries came to suspend the importing of Brazilian meat after the episode.
Federal police find 21 meatpacking plants sold tainted Brazilian meat domestically and abroad. Among those companies under investigation are meat giants JBS and BRF. Analysts feared the latest scandal will significantly affect Brazil’s meat exports.
Agriculture Minister, Blairo Maggi, forecast a loss of up to US$1.5 billion in revenues per year from the scandal, and losing at least ten percent of its market share.