March 9, 2018 / 7:34 PM / 5 months ago

Brazil court releases former JBS chairman from jail

BRASILIA (Reuters) - A Brazilian federal court on Friday granted the release from jail of Joesley Batista, former chairman of the world’s biggest meatpacker, JBS SA, according to court documents.

Joesley Batista, who steered JBS from a Brazilian beef processing firm to a global food conglomerate with major U.S. operations, was expected to be released later on Friday from a Sao Paulo detention center, said his lawyer, André Callegari.

Batista and his brother, Wesley, were arrested last year on charges of obstruction of justice and insider trading following a controversial plea bargain related to a corruption scandal that threatened to topple President Michel Temer.

Wesley Batista, the former chief executive of JBS, was released last month. The brothers cannot leave the country while they answer to charges against them. The Batistas control JBS through holding company J&F Investimentos.

The judge who ordered Joesley Batista’s release said the reason for his preventive arrest order was no longer valid, since that type of arrest by law should not exceed 120 days. The former JBS chairman had been behind bars for the last six months.

The Batistas’ testimony was central to charges presented by Brazil’s prosecutor general against Temer. In a plea deal, they accused Temer of taking bribes in return for political favors and of conspiring to buy the silence of a witness who could implicate the president.

Temer denied any wrongdoing, and Brazil’s lower house of Congress voted against sending the charges to the Supreme Court.

Joesley was later accused of withholding key information from the plea deal, triggering allegations of obstructing justice that led to his arrest.

JBS shares jumped 3.6 percent in Sao Paulo on Friday, as the Bovespa index rose 1.5 percent.

Writing by Marcelo Teixeira; editing by Phil Berlowitz and Jonathan Oatis

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