(Adds details from prosecutor in paragraph 2, J&F comments in
paragraph 6, other background)
SAO PAULO, March 8 Brazilian federal police
carried out search and arrest warrants on Wednesday to
investigate the suspected bribery of witnesses in a corruption
probe involving pension funds of state-controlled companies.
Authorities said the operation targeted Mário Celso Lopes
and his son Mário Celso Lincoln Lopes, partners at pulp company
Eucalipto Brasil SA, following evidence that a 190 million-real
($60.9 million) eucalyptus wood supply contract was used to buy
the silence of a witness.
The arrest order against the senior Lopes was based on
evidence that recent actions, including the signing of the
supply contract, obstructed the investigation, prosecutors said,
referring to an agreement between Lopes' company and Eldorado
Brasil Celulose SA.
Efforts to reach Eucalipto Brasil SA for comment were not
immediately successful. Two of phone numbers listed on the
company's website appeared to be nonworking, and the company did
not immediately respond to written messages.
Eldorado is a subsidiary of the Batista family's holding
company J&F Investimentos SA, which also owns the world's
largest meatpacker, JBS.
In an email, J&F said none of its companies were targeted by
the police raids on Wednesday. Its lawyers are handling J&F's
defense in the pension fund fraud case, J&F added.
The probe, dubbed Operation Greenfield, is investigating
alleged fraud in connection with state-controlled pension funds'
investments in FIP Florestal, which is partly owned by J&F
Mário Celso Lopes was one of the founding partners of FIP
Florestal, in which state-controlled pension funds Petros and
Funcef hold a minority stake.
Petros and Funcef invested 550 million reais in the venture
between 2009 and 2010, the prosecutor said.
The Greenfield probe is one of a string of investigations
into alleged corruption at major Brazilian companies and illicit
activities involving private and state-run firms.
In February, federal prosecutors asked a court to block
assets of two key suspects in the probe. They said defendants
Joesley Batista, a member of the family that controls JBS, and
José Carlos Grubisich Filho, chief executive officer of pulp
producer Eldorado Brasil, breached an agreement related to the
($1 = 3.1193 reais)
(Reporting by Pedro Fonseca; Writing by Ana Mano; Editing by
Lisa Von Ahn and Matthew Lewis)