SAO PAULO – Eike Batista, who was once Brazil’s richest man and has been under house arrest since 2017, was arrested on Thursday by police investigating the Lava Jato (Car Wash) corruption case, judicial officials said.
The 62-year-old Batista was detained on an arrest warrant issued by Federal Criminal Court Judge Marcelo Bretas, who sentenced the disgraced businessman to a 30-year prison sentence in 2018 after he was convicted on corruption and money laundering charges.
Batista was charged with paying $16.5 million in kickbacks to former Rio de Janeiro Gov. Sergio Cabral in connection with public contracts.
Police arrested Batista at his Rio de Janeiro residence, where he had been under house arrest for nearly 30 months.
“Operation Secreto de Midas,” part of the larger “Operation Lava Jato,” was authorized by Bretas at the request of federal prosecutors and targets individuals who allegedly manipulated the stock market and laundered money.
Sergio Moro, a former judge now serving as justice minister in the Cabinet of President Jair Bolsonaro, spearheaded the Lava Jato corruption case probe, which initially focused on a massive bribes-for-inflated-contracts scandal centered on state-controlled oil giant Petrobras and was later expanded.
Batista, the son of former Energy and Mines Minister Eliezer Batista, was known for his extravagant lifestyle.
The former mogul, listed as the 8th richest person in the world by Forbes in 2010 with a fortune estimated at $30 billion, owned a 35-meter (115-foot) yacht, numerous luxury automobiles, including a Lamborghini Aventador displayed inside his mansion in Rio’s Jardim Botanico district.
Batista, a dual Brazilian-German citizen, once controlled a conglomerate comprised of oil, mining, shipbuilding and other businesses.
His empire collapsed due to the plunge in global crude prices, risky business ventures and mismanagement.
In 2016, Batista agreed to cooperate in the Lava Jato probe, admitting that he made undeclared “donations” in 2013 that helped former President Dilma Rousseff’s administration pay off debt stemming from her successful presidential run three years earlier.
Batista said he made the payments at the request of then-Finance Minister Guido Mantega.
Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court found that Batista’s “donations” benefited 13 parties and amounted to 12.6 million reais ($3.8 million).