By Cooper Johnson, Note and Comment Editor
Brazil has become the center of corruption in recent years. Odebrecht SA, Latin America’s largest construction company, agreed to pay more than $3.5 billion to resolve bribery allegations involving Brazil’s state-run oil company. The company admitted to paying officials of the Brazilian oil giant Petrobas to win contracts. This was the largest corruption penalty every levied by global authorities.
Brazil has now been hit with another scandal involving bribing government officials to approve the sale and export of contaminated meat, eloquently referred to as the Weak Flesh probe. Federal police served hundreds of court orders including more than 30 detention warrants, in what local media says is the largest police operation in the country’s history. It is alleged that some meat, including sausage and cold cuts, was adulterated with ingredients including pig heads, and that suspect smells were masked by applying acid. Police released transcripts of recorded conversations showing how agricultural inspectors were bribed, sometimes in the form of prime cuts of beef. Those who refused to comply, it’s alleged, were reassigned elsewhere by the meat companies. Some of the tainted meet was sold for school meals or to retail chains including Wal-Mart.
The allegations regarding the bribery for the approval of contaminated of meat has sent shockwaves throughout the world. Brazil accounts for 20 percent of global beef exports and almost 40 percent of chicken exports. Beef, poultry, and pork accounted for 10 percent of Brazil’s export revenues last year.
The Weak Flesh probe has been going on for at least two years in Curitiba, Parana state, which also gave rise to the sprawling Car Wash investigation into bribes involving top executives and politicians.