SAO PAULO – A judge has ordered Eike Batista, who was once Brazil’s richest man, released from jail and returned to his residence, where he has been under house arrest since 2017, officials said on Sunday.
Batista was arrested on Thursday morning by police investigating the Lava Jato (Car Wash) corruption case.
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.
Batista’s attorneys obtained a writ of habeas corpus from a judge on Saturday night.
Magistrate Simone Schreiber granted the request, ruling that “the use of any form of preventive imprisonment to force a suspect to respond to questions is illegal and incompatible with the principles of the Federal Constitution.”
The arrest warrant issued for Batista last week was based on information provided to prosecutors by cooperating witness Eduardo Plass, a banker involved in the latest corruption schemes allegedly cooked up by Batista.
Prosecutors alleged that the bank accounts used to pay bribes to Cabral, who is imprisoned, were also used to manipulate trading in shares of companies linked to Batista.
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).