By Anna Flávia Rochas
Units of Brazilian meat processors JBS and BRF are among food companies being investigated by Brazil’s Federal Police, to dismantle an illegal scheme involving payment of bribes to federal inspectors and selling meat unfit for consumption, according to the Federal Police.
A federal court in Curitiba, Paraná state, issued a preventive detention order for 27 people, including BRF’s institutional relations manager Roney Nogueira dos Santos, BRF director Andre Luis Baldissera, and JBS employee Flavio Cassou, according to the order published online by Brazilian newspaper Valor Econômico.
BRF’s vice president José Roberto Pernomian Rodrigues was also taken by the police to testify.
The operation, named “Weak Flesh,” is the largest ever set off by Brazil’s Federal Police. There are 1,100 officers working to serve 309 court orders on Friday, including 194 search orders for homes and offices of executives and companies allegedly linked to the criminal group.
The corruption scheme was headed by federal agricultural inspectors and business owners. Sanitary irregularities were found in about 40 companies, according to information by federal police representatives during a press conference.
Public sanitary inspectors “acted to facilitate production of adulterated foods, issuing sanitary certificates without any effective inspection,” the federal police said in a note to the press.
JBS confirmed that three of its production units were targeted, two in Paraná and one in Goiás states, but that its executives and headquarters were not targets of the operation. The detained employee was a veterinarian at the unit in Lapa, Paraná state, assigned by the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture.
“The company strongly condemns any adoption of practices related to product adulteration — whether in production and/or marketing — and remains at the disposal of the authorities with the best interest in contributing to the clarification of the facts,” JBS said in a statement sent to investors on Friday.
BRF said in a statement that it is collaborating with the authorities to “clarify the facts,” and that “it complies with the norms and regulations regarding the production and commercialization of its products,” and that it has “rigorous processes and controls and does not agree with illegal practices.”