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Sao Paulo - Brazil Prosecutors Charge Billionaire Safra In Bribery Scheme

Published on: March 31, 2016 09:11 PM
By: Reuters 
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FILE - Joseph Safra , brother of billionaire Edmond Safra arrives at Monaco law court to attend the trial of American nurse [Ted Maher] charged in the arson death of his billionaire employer [Edmond] Safra three years ago arrives with policeman at Monaco law court November 21, 2002. ReutersFILE - Joseph Safra , brother of billionaire Edmond Safra arrives at Monaco law court to attend the trial of American nurse [Ted Maher] charged in the arson death of his billionaire employer [Edmond] Safra three years ago arrives with policeman at Monaco law court November 21, 2002. Reuters

Sao Paulo - Brazilian prosecutors on Thursday charged Joseph Safra, the world’s richest banker, in connection with an alleged scheme to pay bribes to government officials in return for waiving tax debts.

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In a statement, prosecutors said that Safra had knowledge of a 2014 plan by executives at his Banco Safra SA to pay 15.3 million reais ($4.2 million) in bribes to federal tax auditors. The accusation is based on tapped phone calls between Banco Safra executive João Inácio Puga and tax officials, the statement added.

Safra, who alongside his family owns Banco Safra SA [SADEPB.UL] and a number of private-banking institutions including Switzerland’s J Safra Sarasin, was not directly involved in the negotiations on the bribery plan, the statement noted. Still, the conversations showed that Puga reported to Safra on the bribery talks, prosecutors said.

In a separate statement, Safra’s investment holding company Safra Group said the allegations “are unfounded,” adding that “there have not been any improprieties by any of the businesses of The Safra Group.”

No Safra Group representative “offered any inducement to any public official and the Group did not receive any benefit in the judgment of the tribunal,” the Safra Group statement said.

The charges filed are a follow-up of a broader police inquiry, known as “Operation Zealots,” into kickbacks by companies through lobbyists. Dozens of other Brazilian firms, including steelmaker Gerdau SA

, have also been under investigation for suspected kickbacks.

The case is investigating whether companies bribed members of CARF, a body within the Finance Ministry that hears appeals on tax disputes, to get favorable rulings that reduced or waived the amounts owed. Over 70 industrial, agricultural, civil engineering and financial companies, including banks, are being probed in Operation Zealots.

The Lebanese-Brazilian billionaire, whose fortune is estimated at about $18 billion by Forbes Magazine, controls a banking and financial conglomerate that operates in 19 countries.

In addition to “Operation Zealots,” Brazil has been gripped by the far-reaching corruption probe around state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA

, known as Petrobras, and major engineering conglomerates in the past couple of years. ($1 = 3.5931 Brazilian reais)



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Read Comments (2)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Mar 31, 2016 at 10:10 PM bennyt Says:

The main thing is that the Safra brothers give a lot of tzedakah.

2

 Mar 31, 2016 at 10:11 PM Anonymous Says:

He should help his friend Aryeh Deri, who is going through an immense crusade by Israeli Aryan judicial system, to bury him and the Shas party, and in this merit he will be able to clear his case too, The prosecution in Israel is spending top dollar to find any glimpse of wrongdoing by Deri, and is treating him worse, than the U,N, is treating Israel, The renewed investigation against Deri started as a result on him failing to heed the warning of State prosecutor Mr Nitzan, not to return to his previous position as Interior Minister, and to make things worse, Shas politicians criticized the closure of the criminal case against Mrs Ruth who was deputy chief prosecutor in the Tel Aviv district, and was caught red handed taking bribes,

3

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