Court accepts charges against Brazil banker Joseph Safra

SAO PAULO – A Brazilian federal court has accepted charges filed by prosecutors against banking tycoon Joseph Safra for allegedly agreeing to pay more than $4 million in bribes to tax auditors to reduce or annul fines on unpaid taxes.

A court press officer said Friday that acceptance of the charges means Safra and former bank executive Joao Inacio Puga are now defendants in the investigation of the alleged bribery scheme.

The Federal Prosecutor’s Office alleged last month that Safra knew of a 2014 plan by executives at Banco Safra to pay 15.3 million reals ($4.25 million) in bribes. Puga negotiated the scheme, it said.

Prosecutors have said that Safra was not directly involved in the bribery negotiations but that tapped conversations showed Puga reported to Safra on the bribery talks

After prosecutors filed charges against Safra in late March, the Safra Group said in a statement that the allegations were unfounded.

“There have not been any improprieties by any of the businesses of The Safra Group,” the statement said. No Safra Group representative “offered any inducement to any public official and the Group did not receive any benefit in the judgment of the tribunal,” it added.