(Adds JBS treasury buying shares, plea bargain, CVM statement, background, bylines)
By Bruno Federowski and Tatiana Bautzer
SAO PAULO, May 18 (Reuters) - JBS SA’s controlling shareholders sold shares in the meatpacker worth 329 million reais ($98 million) in April, according to securities filings, after JBS’s top two executives had secretly begun negotiating a plea-bargain deal with prosecutors.
Testimony by Chairman Joesley Batista and his brother, Chief Executive Wesley Batista, about Brazil President Michel Temer allegedly condoning the payment of bribes as part of that deal roiled Brazilian financial markets on Thursday, sending JBS shares 9.7 percent lower.
The shareholders that sold the JBS stock from April 20-28 are among the vehicles through which the billionaire Batista brothers control the meatpacker, the world’s largest.
JBS’s corporate treasury acquired 200 million reais in stock from April 24-27. Neither the JBS treasury nor the company’s controlling shareholders had bought or sold shares over the prior year before April, according to the filings last week.
The share sales, originally reported by news website Brazil Journal on Thursday, represented 2.6 pct of stock held by JBS’s controlling shareholders at the beginning of April.
JBS declined to comment. J&F Investimentos, the Batistas’ main holding company, did not respond to a request for comment. Brazilian market regulator CVM did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Earlier on Thursday, CVM said it was analyzing “facts related to the corruption probe ... involving listed companies.”
The JBS chairman recorded a conversation in which he and Temer allegedly discussed making illegal payments to jailed former House Speaker Eduardo Cunha to keep him from testifying about corruption in March, according to a source familiar with the matter. Later that month the brothers started negotiating the plea bargain deal in the same month, the source said.
$1 = 3.37 reais Reporting by Bruno Federowski and Tatiana Bautzer; Additional reporting by Brad Brooks; Writing by Christian Plumb; Editing by Brad Haynes and Sandra Maler