Brazilian billionaire arrested on return to Rio

Batista, who is in Bangu prison, is accused of being involved in a corruption scandal

 Eike Batista is facing charges he paid a $16.5 million (€15.43 million) bribe to former Rio governor Sérgio Cabral. Photograph: Frederic J Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Eike Batista is facing charges he paid a $16.5 million (€15.43 million) bribe to former Rio governor Sérgio Cabral. Photograph: Frederic J Brown/AFP/Getty Images

 

Former Brazilian billionaire Eike Batista was arrested on Monday on his return to Brazil four days after an international alert for his detention was issued over his alleged role in a massive corruption scandal.

Brazil’s richest person as recently as five years ago, Batista gave himself up to federal police after stepping off an overnight flight from New York to Rio de Janeiro.

They took him for processing and after having his head shaved he was eventually taken to the notorious Bangu prison complex in the west of Rio.

As he does not have a third-level degree Batista cannot avail of the special facilities that traditionally ensure wealthy Brazilians are detained separately from the general prison population. Batista’s legal team denied it had negotiated any conditions ahead of his return to Brazil, following reports he was seeking preferential treatment while in custody.

The brash tycoon is facing charges he paid a $16.5 million (€15.43 million) bribe to former Rio governor Sérgio Cabral. Investigators also accuse both men of laundering a further $100 million in kickbacks siphoned off public work contracts.

Spectacular fall

His arrest caps a spectacular fall from grace for a man who boasted he would pass out Bill Gates to become the richest person on earth – only to see his commodities and logistics empire implode instead, wiping out what was once ranked the world’s seventh-largest fortune.

Former governor Cabral was arrested last November and is also being held in Bangu, though in the section for those with a third-level degree. Yesterday a higher court judge rejected his request for immediate release via the granting of habeas corpus.

Once two of the most powerful men in Brazil, Cabral and Batista are among the highest-profile figures yet to be detained in the sprawling probe into state oil giant Petrobras. Over three years the investigation has already led to dozens of politicians and leading businessmen being arrested and sentenced for their involvement in a scheme that siphoned billions of euros out of Brazil’s corporate flagship.

Also yesterday, the head of Brazil’s supreme court Cármen Lúcia approved the plea-bargain statements made by 77 executives from Brazil’s biggest construction conglomerate Odebrecht accused in the Petrobras probe.

She ruled the testimony remain sealed but it is believed to name dozens, possibly hundreds, of politicians from across the political spectrum of receiving bribes and illicit campaign financing from Odebrecht in return for winning and over-invoicing public works contracts.

Nicknamed “the plea-bargain of the end of the world” the Odebrecht testimony reportedly provides evidence of wrongdoing by current president Michel Temer and former presidents Dilma Rousseff and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.