Brazil's Ambev calls bribery allegations 'false and incoherent'

FILE PHOTO: The Ambev (Companhia de Bebidas das Americas) logo is pictured in their unit in Fortaleza, Brazil January 10, 2019. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker/File Photo

RIO DE JANEIRO/SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazil's Ambev SA ABEV3.SA on Thursday denied a report that the beverage giant had made "inappropriate payments" to two former presidents to prevent an increase in beverage taxes, calling the allegations "false and incoherent."

Brazilian newspaper Estado de S. Paulo earlier reported that Antonio Palocci, a jailed former finance minister, had said in plea bargain testimony that the company made the payments to former presidents Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff.

Palocci said he also received payments from the firm, according to the newspaper, which said it was the first time that Ambev, the Latin American and Canadian subsidiary of Anheuser Busch Inbev NV ABI.BR, has been caught up in the multi-year corruption probe known as Operation Car Wash.

In a statement to Reuters, Ambev vigorously denied what it described as “false and incoherent” allegations.

“False because we never made any inappropriate payments of any nature to receive undue benefits. And incoherent because, since 2015, the beverage sector has suffered through a major increase in (federal corporate) taxes, by around 60%, contradicting everything that was alleged.”

Ambev shares were down 1.5% in late morning trading on the Sao Paulo stock exchange, rebounding from an earlier 2.3% dip. Brazil's benchmark Bovespa equities index .BVSP was up 1%.

Reporting by Gram Slattery and Paula Laier; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Dan Grebler