Federal authorities in Brazil have pressed charges against 63 people suspected of being involved in the tainted meat scandal that led a number of places, including the MSAR, to impose restrictions on meat imports from the South American country.
According to Spanish news agency EFE, the accused are now facing charges of corruption, influence peddling, access to prohibited substances, falsifying documents, links to criminal associations and embezzlement.
The charges were authorised yesterday by Brazil Federal Police Investigator, Mauricio Morcardi Grillo, and the country’s Public Prosecution Office is expected to issue a statement in the coming five days.
“The committed crimes have directly affected public health due to the lack of [supervision] from officers, and that of the interests of food product companies,” the Inspector said, as quoted by the agency.
An action named ‘Weak Meat’ took place on March 17, hitting many companies in the sector, such as JBS – one of the world’s largest meat exporters – and BRF Brazil Foods, which together with 21 other local companies in the sector were put under investigation and had their export licenses temporarily suspended.
The scandal broke out after some meat producers were found to have bribed the country’s health officers in exchange for the sale of bad or tainted meat adulterated with chemical products.
The action led to an international crisis, as around 20 countries imposed restrictions on the import of Brazilian meat afterwards, such as Hong Kong, Mainland China, Chile and Egypt.
On March 20, the European Commission guaranteed that it was following up the investigation on infractions involving Brazilian meat, and would block all meat from companies involved in the scandal from entering the European Union.
On March 21, Macau’s Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau (IACM) announced that it would block the importation of all frozen or refrigerated meat from Brazil to the MSAR. The Bureau later reduced the ban to products from the 21 companies under investigation and meat authorised by sanitary officers involved in the case.
In 2016, the MSAR imported 3.2 million kilograms of frozen Brazilian bovine meat worth MOP291.5 million (US$36.4 million), while Hong Kong was the third largest importer of Brazilian bovine meat in the world, having imported US$1.5 billion-worth in 2016, according to the Brazilian Ministry of Industry, Foreign Trade and Services (MDIC).
Brazilian meat is exported to more than 150 countries.
In the whole year of 2016, Brazil’s poultry meat sales reached US$5.9 billion, while beef sales reached US$4.3 billion, according to official data. Meanwhile, the Brazilian Government has estimated the scandal could result in losses in the country’s external market of around US$1.5 billion.
Brazil’s Minister of Agriculture, Blairo Maggi, has announced he will make official visits to Mainland China, Hong Kong, the U.A.E, Saudi Arabia and Europe in May, to “intensify negotiations with Brazilian meat importers”. * with Lusa