SAO PAULO – A Brazilian judge overturned on Thursday a decision to expand an asset freeze affecting the jailed owners of Sao Paulo-based meatpacking giant JBS and some of their family members, officials said.
Judge Olindo Menezes overturned a ruling handed down two weeks ago by a lower-court judge that increased the value of the embargo on the assets of brothers Joesley and Wesley Batista and also allowed that measure to be extended to their father, Jose Batista Sobrinho, JBS’s chief executive officer since his sons’ arrest, and other relatives.
He found there were insufficient grounds for expanding the freeze on the Batistas’ assets while some of their legal proceedings are still pending in higher courts.
But since his ruling only halts the expansion of the embargo, assets valued at 60 million reais (some $19 million) that were frozen in the first half of the year remain blocked.
The asset-freeze case is part of a wider investigation into alleged favoritism on the part of state development bank BNDES in the granting of loans to J&F Investimentos, the holding company behind JBS, the world’s largest meatpacker.
Prosecutors estimate that those purported irregularities cost taxpayers at least 1.2 billion reais ($378 million).
The Batista brothers signed a plea deal earlier this year in which they confessed to having paid bribes to hundreds of politicians, including President Michel Temer, in exchange for favors for JBS.
That testimony led prosecutors to file bribery, obstruction of justice and criminal conspiracy charges against Temer.
In August, Temer’s allies in Brazil’s lower house of Congress voted not to put him on trial for allegedly receiving bribes from JBS dating back to 2010.
The Chamber of Deputies is due to vote as early as next week on whether to put the president on trial on obstruction of justice charges, although he is once again expected to avoid prosecution before the Supreme Court.
Joesley Batista, meanwhile, was taken into custody on Sept. 10 for allegedly omitting or falsifying information provided to prosecutors as part of his plea deal, although the evidence he and his brother presented remains valid.
Wesley Batista was subsequently arrested three days later for alleged insider trading related to the JBS owners’ explosive revelations to prosecutors.