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Brazil judge orders banking tycoon Safra's assets frozen

Published:Friday | February 3, 2017 | 2:00 AM

A federal judge in Brazil has ruled that more than US$300,000 of assets belonging to banking tycoon Joseph Safra be frozen for his alleged involvement in the payment of more than US$4 million in bribes.

The federal court press office said Judge Rodrigo Parente Paiva Bentemuller ordered the assets frozen on Tuesday.

Prosecutors filed charges against Safra in April, but a federal court dismissed them. The prosecutors appealed and Bentemuller agreed the investigation should proceed.

Prosecutors allege Safra knew of a 2014 plan by executives at Banco Safra to pay 15.3 million reals (US$4.25 million) in bribes to tax auditors to reduce or annul fines on unpaid taxes. They say Safra was not directly involved in the negotiations, but that wiretapped conversations show that former bank executive Joao Inacio Puga reported to him on the bribery talks.

The bank said in a statement Wednesday that the judge's decision was "arbitrary and strange" given that the criminal charges against Safra had been dropped.

- AP