BRASILIA (Reuters) - The controlling shareholder of meatpacker JBS SA will continue talks with Brazilian prosecutors after a deadline passed to accept an 11.2 billion real ($3.44 billion) fine in ongoing negotiations for a leniency deal, a person familiar with the discussions said on Saturday.
The fine, which prosecutors sought to finalize by midnight on Friday, is part of a settlement with J&F Investimentos, as the investment vehicle controlled by brothers Wesley and Joesley Batista is known, for admittedly paying bribes to Brazilian politicians.
The bribes form part of a massive corruption scandal that this week, when a recording by Joesley Batista implicated Brazilian President Michel Temer and two of his predecessors, rattled Brazilian financial markets and led many to press for Temer’s resignation or impeachment. Temer has denied wrongdoing.
JBS, the world’s largest meatpacker, is one of several major Brazilian corporations that has admitted to making illegal payments to politicians and government officials in exchange for favors and contracts with state enterprises.
A series of investigations over the past three years has led to dozens of indictments and sentencing of political and corporate chieftains and revealed a damning culture of kickbacks and other graft at the highest levels of Brazilian government and business.
Although prosecutors so far have agreed to spare the Batistas jail time and levy smaller personal fines on each of them, the company and prosecutors have not yet agreed on the corporate financial penalty.
Whereas the 11.2 billion reais sought by prosecutors would represent a penalty equal to over 5 percent of the group’s total revenue last year, J&F countered with an offer of just 1 billion reais, or about 0.5 percent of 2016 revenues.
The person familiar with the ongoing negotiations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, said talks would continue until a value for the fine can be agreed upon.
($1 = 3.2590 Brazilian reais)
Reporting by Maria Carolina Marcello; Writing by Paulo Prada; Editing by Mary Milliken