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Brazilian authorities file corruption charges against banker Joseph Safra

Brazil's Federal Public Ministry, the MPF, along with thefederal prosecutor have launched corruption charges against Joseph Safra forallegedly paying bribes to government tax officials in return for writing offcorporate tax debts, the Brazilian prosecutors' office said March 31.

The charges stem from an alleged plan of paying some $4.2million in bribes in 2014 to tax officials in exchange for waving $500 millionin corporate tax debts, Reuters reported the same day. The charges are based ontapped phone calls between a Safra banking executive, João Inácio Puga, and taxofficials.

Safra, considered to be the world's richest banker, was notdirectly involved in the alleged bribery negotiations, prosecutors said. Thecharges came from a part of the MPF's investigation focused on tax-fraudcrimes. Six people have been charged so far in the investigation, the MPF said.The criminal case was filed on March 30 and will be presented to the 10thFederal Court in Brasilia.

Joseph Safra and his family control São Paulo-basedSafra Group, aninternational banking and financial conglomerate with holdings that includeSwiss-based Bank J. Safra SarasinAG, Safra NationalBank of New York and Banco Safra (Cayman Islands) Ltd., among others.

In a March 31 statement, the Safra Group said that theallegations are unfounded.

"There have not been any improprieties by any of thebusinesses of the Safra Group," a spokesperson for the group said in thestatement. "No representative of the group offered any inducement to anypublic official and the group did not receive any benefit in the judgment of thetribunal."