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Cargill faces criminal probe over Amazon port project

Federal prosecutors in Brazil found "irregularities" in the acquisition of disputed land where Cargill plans to build a massive river port.

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Federal prosecutors in Brazil are investigating transactions involving Cargill and a Brazilian partner after they found "irregularities" in the acquisition of disputed land where Cargill plans to build a massive river port in the Amazon rainforest.

A spokesperson for the federal prosecutors' office in Para state said they opened the criminal investigation after two prosecutors drafted a July memo, seen by Reuters, questioning the legality of the transaction due to suspected anomalies in the paperwork. The progress of the criminal probe remains confidential.

"The chain of ownership of private land transfers, presented by the companies to substantiate the legality of the purchase and sale ... showed signs of being completely precarious and lacking minimum requirements to be considered legal," wrote prosecutors in the memo, first reported by news website Sumauma.

According to the Reuters report, a Cargill spokesperson said the investigation was a "surprise," adding the trader obtained legal use and possession of a plot of land in Abaetetuba, Para state, where it is evaluating the feasibility of building a grain export terminal.

Cargill has built two ports in the Para state, in the cities of SantarĂ©m in 2003 and Miritituba in 2017. According to Sumauma, construction was done without consulting the traditional communities impacted and, in the case of SantarĂ©m, in alleged violation of at least nine laws, conventions and international treaties according to a report by human rights organization Terra de Direitos

Sumauma reported that in an environmental impact report, Cargill admitted the latest port venture could “possibly alter the tidal dynamic” and “interfere with fishing activity.” It also stated that sand will need to be dredged from the riverbed and that the piers where the vessels dock may “occasionally” affect the speed, direction and quantity of sediment in the water. In this report, the company does not say what will happen to the lake after the port is built. Based on the plans, the terminal will include a loading system for the grain, which will be stored in metal silos with a 16.8-metric-ton capacity.

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