September 9, 2017 / 4:42 PM / 3 years ago

Brazil top prosecutor requests billionaire Batista's arrest -source

BRASILIA/SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazil’s top prosecutor asked the country’s Supreme Court late on Friday to approve the arrest of billionaire Joesley Batista, one of the owners of the world´s largest meatpacker JBS SA, a person with knowledge of the matter said.

Brazil’s Prosecutor-General Rodrigo Janot had told a news conference on Monday that he was considering revoking a plea bargain deal struck by Batista and a fellow state’s witness after they appeared to have inadvertently recorded themselves discussing crimes not covered in the deal.

The source, who asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said that Janot had requested the arrest of Batista and Ricardo Saud, a former executive at the Batista family holding company J&F Investimentos, based on the four-hour recording.

Janot’s office did not respond to calls and email requests for comment.

Joesley Batista and his brother Wesley confessed to bribing scores of politicians in plea bargain testimony that allowed them to avoid prosecution. Amongst the evidence they provided to prosecutors was a recording of President Michel Temer apparently endorsing hush payments to a possible witness in a graft probe.

The source said that Janot had revoked the benefits granted under the plea bargain deal to Joesley and Ricardo Saud, a former executive of holding company J&F Investimentos, through which the Batista family controls JBS.

He also asked Supreme Court Justice Edson Facchin to authorize the arrest of a former prosecutor, Marcelo Miller, the source said.

The taped conversation, which was made public by the Supreme Court this week, was inadvertently submitted to prosecutors with unrelated material last week.

In it, Batista and Saud say Miller helped the Batista brothers strike their plea bargain before leaving the Prosecutors Office in April to work in a private law firm.

In a statement this week, J&F said Batista and Saud were simply discussing hypotheses in the conversation, not facts.

Batista´s lawyer, Pierpaolo Bottini, filed a request on Saturday for the Supreme Court to hear defense arguments before authorizing the arrest of his client and Saud.

The lawyer also said Batista and Ricardo Saud are willing to surrender their passports.

A lawyer for Miller, André Perecmanis, said on Saturday his client did not help the Batistas in their plea deal while working as a prosecutor.

Another source with knowledge of the matter said the leniency agreement of J&F Investimentos SA, which the company signed in May agreeing to pay a record leniency fine of 10.3 billion reais ($3.3 billion) for its role in the political bribery scheme, had been validated on Friday by a federal court.

The source, asking for anonymity to discuss the matter freely, said that if a plea bargain by J&F Investimentos is canceled, the leniency agreement may also lose effect.

A string of asset sales depend on the validity of the leniency agreement.

In three months, the holding company has signed agreements to sell Havaianas flip-flops maker Alpargatas SA ALPA4.SA, dairy company Vigor Alimentos SA and pulpmaker Eldorado Brasil Celulose SA, but the sales may only be finalized if the leniency agreement is still valid.

Reporting by Ricardo Brito in Brasilia, Guillermo Parra-Bernal and Tatiana Bautzer in Sao Paulo and Rodrigo Viga Gaier in Rio de Janeiro; editing by Diane Craft

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