'Beef baron' Joesley Batista is arrested again by Operation Car Wash

The last time we discussed Operation Car Wash, it was to point out that Brazilian society’s opinion of the investigation was the lowest it had been in since its inception in 2014. Regardless, the massive corruption operation has apparently been ticking along as normal, albeit pushed from the headlines, thanks to an eventful presidential election.

This week, however, Operation Car Wash returned to the news, with two high profile cases hitting the front pages.

On Thursday, the Federal Police arrested ten state congressmen in Rio de Janeiro suspected of being part of a massive kickback scheme inside the state legislature.

This morning, the feds issued 19 arrest warrants across five states as part of its investigation into a corruption scandal within the Ministry of Agriculture. Beef baron Joesley Batista, the owner of the world’s largest meatpacking firm, JBS, and a pivotal figure in Brazilian politics over the last 18 months, was among those taken into police custody.

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As an illustration of just how big Operation Car Wash has gotten, neither of these high-profile arrests fall directly under the scope of the original investigation. They are in fact part of &#8220;subsidiary&#8221; investigations (of which there have been </span><a href="https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/poder/2018/11/pf-prende-joesley-batista-e-vice-governado-de-minas-gerais-na-operacao-capitu.shtml"><span style="font-weight: 400;">more than 50</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">), stemming from the primary probe into kickbacks at state-owned oil and gas giant Petrobras.</span></p> <h2>The cases in question</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The arrest of ten Rio de Janeiro lawmakers is connected to the wider corruption scheme run by the now-jailed Sérgio Cabral. The former state governor was first convicted in September of 2017 and has since received four further sentences, culminating in over 100 years of jail time for money laundering, passive corruption, and criminal organization.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mr. Cabral was convicted of running a massive scheme of kickbacks and money laundering within the Rio de Janeiro state government, taking bribes and rigging bids for public works in the state.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Thursday&#8217;s operation came as the result of a plea bargain agreement with Carlos Miranda, who served as Mr. Cabral’s &#8220;bribe manager,&#8221; administering all of the unlawful funds received by the former governor of Rio. The ten politicians arrested by the Federal Police are accused of having received monthly payments of between BRL 20,000 and 100,000 (USD 5,300 to 26,600) from Mr. Cabral in exchange for political support. Data from the computerized accounting systems used by Mr. Cabral’s dollar exchangers Vinicius Claret and Claudio Barboza—which have served as evidence in several Cabral-related cases—confirmed the money transfers.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The public prosecutors named this monthly kickback the “</span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">mensalinho</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">” (small monthly stipend), a reference to the vast Mensalão corruption scandal of 2005.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Three of the politicians issued with arrest warrants—Jorge Picciani, Paulo Mello, and Edson Albertassi—were already arrested for other scandals related to Mr. Cabral&#8217;s Rio de Janeiro corruption network. Among the other seven are Chiquinho da Mangueira, the president of the famous Rio de Janeiro samba school Mangueira. Another, André Corrêa, was backed by the family of President-elect Jair Bolsonaro to become the speaker of the state legislature.</span></p> <h2>Joesley Batista arrested. Again.</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Friday morning’s Federal Police operation—arresting meat magnate Joesley Batista, lieutenant governor of Minas Gerais Antonio Andrade, former agriculture minister Neri Geller, and congressman João Magalhães—is completely disconnected to the goings on in Rio de Janeiro.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The case concerns a bribery scheme within the Ministry of Agriculture in 2014 and 2015, where Mr. Batista&#8217;s meat-packing giant JBS is accused of dishing out unlawful payments to politicians and public servants within the ministry, in exchange for the approval of measures which benefited the company.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The root of the arrests is the 2017 plea bargain testimony of Lúcio Funaro, who detailed the ins and outs of a corruption scheme which involved Mr. Batista, jailed former House Speaker Eduardo Cunha, and even <a href="https://brazilian.report/power/2017/10/23/process-unseat-brazils-president/">President Michel Temer</a>.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The four men will be charged with forming a criminal organization, active and passive corruption, obstruction of justice, and money laundering.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This is not Joesley Batista&#8217;s first arrest, either. The owner of JBS was targeted by Operation Car Wash in 2016 and became one of the most spoken-about men in Brazil in mid-2017 when his plea bargain testimony included a recorded conversation he held with President Michel Temer. On the tape, the two allegedly discuss the paying of hush money to the jailed Eduardo Cunha. The scandal very nearly brought down the Temer government.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mr. Batista was arrested four months later, however, as public prosecutors concluded he had omitted important information in his plea bargain testimony, as well as committing </span><a href="https://brazilian.report/power/2018/09/12/opinion-polls-brazil-insider-trading/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">insider trading</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> in connection with the release of said testimony.

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BY The Brazilian Report

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