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Brazil court unfreezes JBS owners’ assets

Brasilia | Reuters –– A Brazilian federal appeals court on Thursday granted an injunction releasing assets belonging to the Batista brothers, owners of the world’s largest meatpacker JBS SA, Ticiano Figueiredo, a lawyer representing the defendants, said.

A spokeswoman at the appeals court did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

On Oct. 6, a federal judge blocked 1.6 billion reais (about C$630 million) belonging to 21 people and companies linked to J+F Investimentos, the holding company of the Batista family.

The asset freeze was meant to cover potential losses stemming from financial operations between the companies of the group and the development bank BNDES, which are being investigated.

Prosecutors suspect irregularities regarding the approval and disbursement of loans worth billions of reais from state-owned BNDES to the companies owned by the Batistas.

State loans helped fuel growth at J+F over the past decade, enabling it to expand beyond meatpacking into fashion, pulp processing and banking.

JBS, of which BNDES is a shareholder through BNDESPar, denies it received favourable treatment from the state bank.

On Wednesday, JBS shut down seven of its 36 slaughterhouses in Brazil after a lower court froze 730 million reais (C$286.6 million) in connection with a tax probe in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul.

The meatpacker said the asset freeze brought “legal insecurity” to its operations in the state, adding the plants there would stay closed indefinitely.

— Reporting for Reuters by Ricardo Brito; writing by Ana Mano.

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