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Brazilian Meatpacking Tycoon Detained In Corruption Probe


There has been yet another twist in a long-running scandal in Brazil. It has engulfed many of the rich and powerful, including several former Brazilian presidents. NPR's Philip Reeves reports from Rio de Janeiro.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: A jet is flying into a big city. It cruises down from a cloudless, blue sky and gently lands in Brazil's capital, Brasilia. Out of this aircraft steps a casually dressed middle-aged man, accompanied by armed cops in black. The cops escort the man to a car and drive off chased by photographers. That scene led the news here yesterday. It was live on TV and repeated many times. Why? Because the jet belongs to the federal police because the casually dressed man who stepped out of it is a billionaire who almost brought down Brazil's government recently and because he was being driven off to be held in custody, at least for now.

The man is Joesley Batista. Batista's the former chair of JBS, the world's largest meatpacking company. He's better known these days for this.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken).

REEVES: A covert audio recording in which he and Brazil's president, Michel Temer, allegedly discuss paying hush money to one of Temer's old political allies who's doing time for corruption. Batista handed that recording to prosecutors earlier this year as part of a plea bargain. The recording triggered a political crisis. Brazil's chief prosecutor charged Temer with corruption, despite assertions by Temer's legal team that the audio's manipulated. The unpopular Temer only survived by somehow persuading Congress to vote not to proceed with the case.

Now Joesley Batista's the one in trouble, thanks to this.


JOESLEY BATISTA: (Foreign language spoken).

REEVES: Another leaked covert recording in which Batista's allegedly heard talking about matters he's supposed to have revealed to prosecutors as part of his plea bargain but didn't. On Sunday, Batista turned himself into police in the city of Sao Paulo after a Supreme Court justice ordered his arrest. He was flown to Brasilia where he'll be detained for the coming days while the authorities decide their next move. As this latest episode in Brazil's ever-widening corruption scandal plays out, many Brazilians will surely continue watching very closely indeed. Philip Reeves, NPR News, Rio de Janeiro. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.