Brazilian billionaire Joseph Safra, who owns iconic London skyscraper the Gherkin, has been charged for allegedly plotting to bribe officials to reduce his company’s corporation tax bill.
According to prosecutors, Safra is accused of plotting to pay a 15.3m reais ($4.2m) bribe to tax officials.
Brazilian authorities claim that while Safra wasn’t directly involved in the bribery plot, there is evidence that some employees were acting on his instructions.
Wire taps of conversations between Safra executive João Inácio Puga and tax officials led to the bribery charges against Safra.
Prosecutors said: “He [Puga] limited himself to negotiating, interacting with the other people under investigation. But the decisions were taken by [what Puga called] the ‘staff’, that is, Grupo Safra’s majority shareholder and president, Joseph Y Safra. Therefore, Puga was Joseph’s agent.”
A spokesperson for the Safra Group said: “The allegations being promoted by a Brazilian prosecutor are unfounded. There have not been any improprieties by any of the businesses of The Safra Group. No representative of the group offered any inducement to any public official and the group did not receive any benefit in the judgement of the tribunal.”
Safra, who is worth a whopping $18.3bn, bought the Gherkin for a reported £726m in 2014.