Brazil Police Again Arrest Eike Batista, Once Brazil’s Richest Man

By Reuters

RIO DE JANEIRO—Police in Brazil on Aug. 8 arrested Eike Batista, the charismatic mining and oil magnate who was once the country’s richest man, on suspicion of money laundering and insider trading.

In statements, police and prosecutors said they arrested the eccentric former billionaire in Rio de Janeiro on a “temporary” basis. They also executed search warrants at the houses of a former executive at one of his firms, and the residences of Batista’s sons, Thor and Olin.

Former billionaire Eike Batista
Former billionaire Eike Batista arrives the Federal Police headquarters in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Brazil, on Aug 8, 2019. (Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino)

Batista has been under house arrest since early 2017 on separate charges. In early 2018, he was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison for paying a $16.5 million bribe to now-imprisoned former Rio de Janeiro Governor Sérgio Cabral in exchange for state construction contracts.

Eike Batista
Former billionaire Eike Batista arrives at the Federal Police headquarters in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Brazil, on Aug 8, 2019. (Reuters/Ueslei)

Batista, who could not immediately be reached for comment, has been allowed to stay under house arrest while he appeals the verdict.

The former executive’s meteoric rise and fall mirrored the recent fortunes of Brazil, where a commodities boom faded as his energy, mineral and logistics empire fell apart earlier this decade. His swashbuckling attitude and confident forecasts of a prolonged golden era for Brazil evaporated as Latin America’s largest economy suffered its worst recession on record.

Batista’s bribery conviction was linked to the rights to run Brazil’s most famous soccer stadium, the Maracana in Rio, which held the 2014 World Cup final and the opening ceremonies of the 2016 Olympic Games.

Agents of Brazilian federal police
Agents of Brazilian federal police are seen during an operation of issuing a detention order against former billionaire Eike Batista in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Brazil, on Aug 8, 2019. (Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino)

Federal prosecutors on Thursday described an insider trading and market manipulation racket in which Batista used Panama-based The Advisor Investments (TAI) to hide transactions.

According to prosecutors, TAI would trade shares and debt in firms as if the firm were trading its own money, when in fact it was trading the money of Batista and others seeking to hide their identities. Batista used a Credit Suisse account in the Bahamas to receive proceeds from the scheme, prosecutors said.

Reuters could not immediately reach TAI for comment. Credit Suisse did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Former billionaire Eike Batista
Former billionaire Eike Batista is seen inside a car with Agents of Brazilian federal police, in front of the Medical Legal Institute in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug 8, 2019. (Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino)

Prosecutors said they identified some 800 million reais ($203 million) in illicit transactions. A court ordered that 1.6 billion reais of Batista family assets be frozen.

In recent years, scores of wealthy businessmen and high-profile politicians, previously thought untouchable, have been imprisoned in Brazil for their role in graft schemes. Many, however, have managed to avoid or put off prison sentences due in part to its complex and time-consuming appeals process.

By Gram Slattery and Rodrigo Viga Gaier