Cash Missing From Brazilian Ex-Billionaire Batista TrialJuan Pablo Spinetto
More than $10,000 of cash confiscated from ex-billionaire Eike Batista as part of an insider trading case is missing, the latest twist in a case where a judge has come under criminal investigation after driving one of the ex-billionaire’s luxury cars.
Officials detected that 27,000 reais ($8,639), $443 and 1,000 euros ($1,083) seized from Batista last month are gone, an appeals court in Rio de Janeiro said in a statement Monday. Police seized more than 90,000 reais as part of a raid last month, according to information on the federal police’s website.
The court is proceeding with a probe against Judge Flavio Roberto de Souza after finding undisclosed “evidence” in an inquiry, it said in a separate statement the same day. The judge surrendered his passport to court authorities, it said.
Souza didn’t reply to an e-mail seeking comment.
A symbolic trial in Brazil’s fight against capital market crimes is being contaminated by anomalies, said Leonardo Theon de Moraes, head of corporate affairs at Sao Paulo-based law firm Theon de Moraes & Britto Sociedade de Advogados.
“This is shameful for Brazil’s judicial system,” he said by telephone from Sao Paulo. “This is a symbolic case and there is a lot of pressure from the media.”
The evidence will be used in administrative and criminal procedures against the judge and there are measures already in place, the court said in the statement, declining to specify as the investigation is conducted in secrecy.
The criminal probe comes less than two weeks after Souza was removed from the case for breaching the court’s ethics code by allegedly using assets seized from Brazil’s most-famous fallen billionaire. A Porsche Cayenne Turbo S, which was part of the businessman’s luxury-car fleet seized by Souza during the trial, was seen parked in the garage of the judge’s Rio apartment building last month.
Souza told Agencia Estado newswire at the time that he took the car to his building’s garage because of a lack of parking at police and court facilities. He told newspaper Folha de S. Paulo that he also left a piano belonging to Batista and a second vehicle owned by the entrepreneur’s son Thor with neighbors.
Batista, who lost most of his $34.5 billion fortune when his energy and commodities empire collapsed, is being charged by Rio prosecutors with illegally dumping shares of his oil company using privileged information. The company, at the time known as OGX, tumbled 95 percent in 2013 as it filed for bankruptcy protection after cutting output targets and halting most operations. The businessman denies wrongdoing.
Once Brazil’s richest man, Batista is now more than $1 billion in the red, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, giving him the rare distinction of being a “negative billionaire.”
Before being removed from the case, Souza in early February ordered the seizure of Batista’s assets in Brazil, as well as those of his two of his sons, an ex-wife and the mother of his third son. The order led to the raid of Batista’s Rio mansion in which police took seven vehicles including a Lamborghini Aventador, a police spokesman said at the time. Authorities also seized a yacht, three jet skis and a speedboat, among other assets including cash.
Following the trial’s first hearing in November, which resembled a movie set with several film crews following every movement of the 58-year-old fallen mogul, Souza called Batista a “symbolic figure.” If found guilty and sentenced to prison, Batista would face the ignominy of being Brazil’s first inmate for capital-market crimes.
“He was the poster boy of his own companies and with a megalomaniac dream of becoming the world’s richest man,” the judge said about the ex-billionaire at the time. “To see a person with that type of attitude sitting on the defendant’s bench is really a historic moment.”
The comments prompted a request by Batista’s defense to get the judge kicked off the case on a lack of impartiality.
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