Brazilian Meatpacking Company BRF Admits to Bribing Food Inspectors

On October 1, Reuters reported that according to the Brazilian Federal Police, Brazilian meatpacking company BRF SA “has admitted to bribing food inspectors with bank deposits and health benefits.”  This admission is related to the Federal Police’s ongoing investigation of BRF as part of “Operation Weak Flesh.”  The Federal Police initiated that operation in March 2017 to probe corruption of Ministry of Agriculture agricultural inspectors by owners of meat processing plants in three Brazilian states.

As part of the fourth phase of Weak Flesh, the Federal Police said that BRF had provided evidence that it had paid approximately R$19 million ($4.56 million) in bribes until 2017, when the company overhauled its management.  Subsequently, certain former BRF executives were taken into custody.

BRF itself is not under investigation, according to the Federal Police, but is cooperating with authorities.  As a result, police did not find it necessary to conduct raids to gather evidence, and BRF stated that none of its offices or production sites were targeted in the latest phase of the investigation.

Reuters also reported that according to a person familiar with the matter who requested anonymity, investigators are negotiating “a formal leniency agreement with BRF in return for its continued cooperation.”

N.B.: The statement that Brazilian Police indicated that BRF is not under investigation is worthy of note, in light of the report that the authorities are seeking a leniency agreement with BRF. Previously, the police had publicly “cited evidence that five laboratories accredited by the Agriculture Ministry colluded with the analysis department of BRF to ‘falsify’ test results related to the safety of its industrial process.”  Another media report indicated that the police are now focusing on farm inspectors who received bribes from BRF, and stated that “there are cases of inspectors who received R$600,000 [$145,871] through fake contracts.”

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