Brazil launches second phase of ‘Weak Flesh’ probe

Brazilian Federal Police vehicles are pictured in front of the Ministry of Agriculture during an "Operation Flesh Is Weak" in Brasilia

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazil’s federal police on Wednesday began the second phase of their Weak Flesh graft probe, targeting food inspectors and company executives who allegedly conspired to evade health inspections of meatpacking plants.

The main target was a former agriculture ministry superintendent based in the state of Goiás, police said in an emailed statement.

The former official, who was not named, is already a defendant in a corruption scheme involving a large food company, the police said, without disclosing the name of the company.

The suspect is accused of trying to destroy evidence, police said.

In March, police accused more than 100 people, mostly inspectors, of taking bribes in exchange for allowing the sale of rancid products, falsifying export documents or failing to inspect meatpacking plants.

Two executives at BRF SA <BRFS3.SA>, the world’s largest poultry exporter, were among 60 people charged in April with taking part in the scheme to bribe health officials.

The scandal briefly threatened nearly $14 billion in exports from Brazil’s powerhouse protein industry, as markets from China to Europe curtailed shipments of meat.

In the current phase of the Weak Flesh probe, police carried out three search warrants and one arrest warrant.

BRF’s press officers did not immediately return a request for comment regarding whether the company was targeted on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Ana Mano; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)