By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Former meatpacking tycoon Joesley Batista and former Agriculture Minister Antonio Andrade were arrested on Friday, charged with payment of bribes to federal employees of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Chamber of Deputies to benefit Batista’s company, JBS.

Brazil, São Paulo,Joesley Batista, leaves prosecutor's office after testimony in August 2017.
Joesley Batista, leaves prosecutor’s office after testimony in August 2017, photo by Rovena Rosa/Agência Brasil.

Batista’s defense team has denied their client has done anything wrong. “It is strange that a request for his imprisonment be issued during an investigation in which he has given several testimonies as a collaborator and delivered numerous supporting documents,” read a statement issued by Batista’s lawyer Andre Callegari.

In all, 63 search and seizure warrants and nineteen temporary arrest warrants were being served, in Minas Gerais, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Mato Grosso, Paraíba and Brasilia.

According to the investigations, there was a scheme for distributing bribes within the Ministry of Agriculture to benefit politicians, who received money from JBS in exchange for benefits to the companies in the group. The investigation is linked to the Lava Jato (Car Wash) corruption scandal.

In May 2017 Batista, made headlines after releasing secret recordings which showed President Michel Temer giving his endorsement to the pay-off of a top politician for his silence.

The accusations were made after Batista was arrested and as part of a plea-bargaining agreement between the tycoon and federal prosecutors looking into illegal dealing by the executive in the Lava Jato corruption scandal.

In September of that same year, Batista was arrested again after Brazil’s top prosecutor, Rodrigo Janot, concluded that Batista withheld important information from his plea-bargaining testimony.

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