JBS S.A., along with a handful of other Brazilian companies, is under investigation by that country’s federal prosecutor in what is described as a widespread corruption case. Officials said Tuesday that 22 people have been arrested, and charges may include bribing public officials, racketeering, corruption, fraud and collusion.
In a statement issued Wednesday, JBS officials said the company is not involved in crimes associated with the Brazilian government's probe of alleged corruption among meatpackers. The company said it does not yet know the full details of the probe but is cooperating with federal authorities.
The investigation began about a year ago and developed into a broad-reaching sting operation called “operation slaughter” that spanned several Brazilian states. The prosecutor’s office said that officials at the Banco da Amazonia bank, and local and federal officials of several government offices and ministries are also involved. The prosecutor said companies under investigation had paid inspectors and public servants to approve projects and clear products such as meats for consumption.
JBS S.A. became the world’s largest beef processor last year and a major player in the U.S. market when it purchased Swift & Co. and Smithfield Beef Group. It also purchased Five Rivers Cattle Feeding, which owns 10 feedlots with a capacity of 1.5 million head. JBS also made a bid for National Beef, the fourth-largest U.S. beef packer, but that acquisition was terminated last February.
JBS S.A. is currently the world's largest beef producer and exporter, with a daily slaughtering capacity of 65,200 head, and the largest global exporter of processed beef. The company's operations include 22 plants located in nine Brazilian states and six plants located in four Argentine provinces, in addition to 16 plants in the United States, 10 in Australia and 10 in Italy. Additionally, JBS S.A. is the third-largest pork producer in the United States, with a slaughtering capacity of 47,900 head per day.
Earlier this month JBS restructured its ownership of Five Rivers Cattle Feeding. JBS made what it calls “a strategic decision” with J&F Oklahoma to split ownership of Five Rivers. J&F will own the cattle and JBS USA will own the feedlots. JBS Five Rivers will charge the owners of the cattle a daily per-head fee to fatten their cattle and take care of them. J&F Oklahoma Holdings owns up to 800,000 head of cattle on feed at the 10 feedlots and will pay JBS Five Rivers a market-based daily cattle-feeding fee.