Interpol to help Brazilian police arrest fugitive ex-billionaire
Eike Batista, once world’s seventh richest person, wanted on corruption charges
Eike Batista, who has reportedly left his native Brazil, where he faces corruption charges. Photograph: Frederic J Brown/AFP/Getty Images
Eike Batista greets then president Dilma Rousseff in 2012, while Sergio Cabral, then governor of Rio de Janeiro, looks on. Mr Cabral is now in prison, facing corruption charges. Photograph: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters
Brazilian police have asked Interpol to help arrest the Brazilian tycoon once ranked the world’s seventh richest person after he was charged with corruption.
Eike Batista was estimated to be worth over $30 billion before his commodities and logistics empire spectacularly imploded in recent years, leaving him mired in debt and accusations of fraud.
On Wednesday police went to his mansion in Rio de Janeiro to detain him as part of the sprawling three-year investigation into corruption at state oil giant Petrobras that has already led to the arrest and conviction of dozens of prominent politicians and businessmen.
But Mr Batista had reportedly left the country on Tuesday night, travelling on a German passport to New York. His lawyers said he was there for a prior engagement and would return to the country and co-operate with authorities.
But federal police issued a red alert to Interpol despite the reassurances. Legal analysts warn if Mr Batista reaches Germany it could prove difficult to extradite him back to Brazil. The country has an extradition treaty with the United States but not with Germany.
Mr Batista is accused of paying a bribe of $16.5 million (€15.4 million) to former Rio governor Sergio Cabral. Investigators say both men working together laundered over $100 million in kickbacks on public contracts.
The two men were close when Mr Cabral was the governor of Rio overseeing a flood of public money into the city to prepare it for the World Cup and Olympic Games and as a result of new oil discoveries off its coast. At the time Mr Batista was Brazil’s most flamboyant tycoon. He had bragged it was only a matter of time before his commodities empire made him richer than Bill Gates.
Under former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and his successor Dilma Rousseff, Mr Batista’s empire was showered with cheap loans from state banks before unravelling once his oil exploration division failed to meet ambitious targets, leading to a collapse in market confidence and the drying up of credit.
Mr Cabral has been held in Rio’s notorious Bangu prison since his arrest last November for corruption. The former governor is reportedly terrified of other prisoners and considering cutting a plea-bargain deal with prosecutors in the hope of winning a provisional release for himself and his wife Adriana Ancelmo, who is also detained for her alleged role in the scheme.
That could have serious implications for Mr Lula da Silva, who has already been charged in other areas of the Petrobras probe.
Luiz Pezão, Mr Cabral’s former deputy and successor as governor of Rio, has been forced to declare a state of calamity because of a financial crisis that economists say is the inheritance of Cabral’s misrule. On Wednesday Pezão secured emergency funding from the federal government.