December 7, 2018 / 8:15 PM / 5 days ago

U.S. Justice officials quiz shareholders of Brazil's JBS

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Brazilian meatpacker JBS SA is seen in the city of Jundiai, Brazil June 1, 2017. Picture taken June 1, 2017. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker

BRASÍLIA (Reuters) - U.S. Department of Justice investigators visited Brazil this week to question shareholders of J&F Investimentos, the holding company that controls meatpacker JBS SA (JBSS3.SA), Brazilian prosecutors said on Friday in a statement.

U.S. authorities have been investigating the companies controlled by J&F alongside their Brazilian counterparts since their largest shareholders - brothers Joesley and Wesley Batista - admitted to bribing politicians to obtain benefits for their businesses.

A source familiar with the probe in Brasília told Reuters that Justice Department investigators met and questioned both the Batista brothers, who are forbidden from leaving the country.

Brazil’s federal prosecutor’s office said on Friday that an agreement between authorities from both countries was signed and added to the plea deal J&F closed with Brazilian prosecutors last year, to allow for U.S. authorities to come and talk to the shareholders.

It was not immediately clear what part of the businesses owned by J&F in the United States, which include listed chicken producer Pilgrims Pride Corp (PPC.O) as well as other units slated for an eventual initial public offering, is being targeted by U.S. authorities.

Other recent Brazilian corruption probes that U.S. authorities have joined, such as one examining construction group Odebrecht, have ended in multibillion-dollar fines and criminal settlements.

J&F declined to comment. The holding company agreed last year to pay 10.3 billion reais ($2.64 billion) to the Brazilian government as part of the plea deal.

($1 = 3.9074 reais)

Reporting by Ricardo Brito; Editing by Christian Plumb, Susan Thomas and Daniel Wallis

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