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Brazilian court orders seizure of emails of bankrupt retailer Americanas

FILE PHOTO: People walk in front of a Lojas Americanas store in Brasilia

By Tatiana Bautzer

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - A Brazilian court has ordered the seizure of all corporate emails of managers and board members from bankrupt retailer Americanas SA sent and received over the last 10 years, according to documents seen by Reuters.

Judge Andrea Palma of federal court in Sao Paulo earlier this week agreed with a request from Americanas creditor Banco Bradesco SA asking for the seizure of the emails, citing its belief that "directors, board members, shareholders and auditors allowed a giant accounting fraud to happen."

Bradesco in an affidavit said it has loans of 4.7 billion reais ($927 million) with the retailer, which filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this month, days after disclosing nearly $4 billion in accounting inconsistencies.

Bradesco said it was seeking evidence for potential litigation against Americanas, its managers, and potentially its controlling shareholders over "abuse of power." Americanas' largest shareholders are the billionaire founders of 3G Capital, Jorge Paulo Lemann, Carlos Alberto Sicupira and Marcel Telles.

Americanas said it will wait to be formally notified of the decision to adopt the appropriate measures. Bradesco declined to comment.

Any evidence uncovered would be used to "investigate the reason for the accounting fraud" and who inside Americanas "mandated the fraud or participated in it by action or omission," the Bradesco affidavit said.

The judge ruled that all email communications of Americanas' managers over the last 10 years should be seized, as well as the emails of board members and members of the audit committee in the same period. The judge also ordered the seizure of all emails of employees in the finance and accounting division.

In her decision, the judge said that although Americanas had created a committee to investigate the matter, any risk of destruction of evidence must be avoided. The judge named Ernst & Young and lawyer Patricia Punder as experts in accounting and forensic evidence to work on the case.

Americanas is one of Brazil's largest retailers and has been in business for over 90 years.

($1 = 5.0710 reais)

(Reporting by Tatiana Bautzer; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien and Jonathan Oatis)