A Brazilian Superior Court ruled Tuesday Joesley and Wesley Batista can return to positions of management at J&F Holding, the parent company of JBS SA, the world’s largest meat packer headquartered in Brazil.
Judge Rogerio Schietti said in his decision that it no longer makes sense to bar Joseley Batista from positions in the companies in which he is a controlling shareholder, Reuters reported. He has been barred from holding such positions since 2018 due to a restraining order in a federal police probe on insider trading. The court extended its ruling to include also lifting the ban on Wesley Batista, the former chief executive of JBS SA.
Defense attorneys for the Batista brothers argued the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic made it essential the brothers’ return to manage the companies.
In his ruling, Judge Schietti Cruz agreed saying, “…the negative impacts that this global health crisis will have on the economy of each country and, especially, on the financial health and on the productive capacity of national and multinational companies” were arguments that reinforced the need for the Batistas to return to the company to make decisions that preserve productive activity, jobs and tax collection at J&F which supplies 25% of Brazil’s food market and currently employs 260,000 workers.
The Batistas became linked to multiple criminal investigations from 2016 to 2018, and they were banned from holding management positions in companies owned by J&F after federal prosecutors charged them with insider trading. Joesley Batista also was accused of withholding information during plea negotiations.
Joesley Batista spent roughly six months in prison until his release in March 2018. Wesley Batista was released from prison in February the same year.
The brothers were linked to “Operation Weak Flesh” which exposed bribes paid to food safety inspectors in Brazil. The brothers also faced allegations that they and other JBS S.A. executives bribed almost 2,000 politicians at all levels of government, including Michel Temer, former Brazilian president.