RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazilian federal police on Thursday arrested a Flamengo soccer club executive who was once the right-hand man of Eike Batista, a businessman and former billionaire who is being sought by police for alleged bribery.
Batista – listed by Forbes magazine as the world’s eighth-richest individual in 2010, shortly before the collapse of his business empire – allegedly paid a $16.5 million bribe to ex-Rio de Janeiro Gov. Sergio Cabral, jailed since November for embezzlement, federal police and prosecutors said at a press conference.
A fictitious contract that simulated the purchase of a gold mine was drawn up to disguise the illegal payment, they said.
The Flamengo executive, Flavio Godinho, began working in the 1980s in various offshore companies that were part of Batista’s conglomerate, according to investigators.
Godinho, a former member of Flamengo’s board of directors, returned to the Rio de Janeiro-based club in 2015 as a vice president and his duties included player signings.
Police raided Batista’s Rio de Janeiro home early Thursday but did not find the businessman and are investigating whether he traveled two day ago to the United States using a German passport.
The investigation has shown that Cabral set up a criminal organization in 2002 as a regional lawmaker and that it expanded between 2007 and 2014, when he was serving as state governor, prosecutor Leonardo Freitas said.
Cabral amassed $100 million in ill-begotten funds that he stashed away in foreign bank accounts, police say.
Batista, who once had a fortune estimated at $30 billion and a conglomerate comprising companies in oil, mining, shipbuilding and other sectors, suffered a spectacular fall from grace due to the plunge in global crude prices and risky business ventures.
Last year, Batista agreed to cooperate in a sprawling bribes-for-inflated contracts probe centered on state oil company Petrobras, admitting that he made undeclared “donations” in 2013 that helped then-President Dilma Rousseff’s administration pay off debt stemming from her successful presidential run three years earlier.
He said he made the payments at the request of then-Finance Minister Guido Mantega.
Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court says Batista’s “donations” benefited 13 parties and amounted to 12.6 million reais ($3.8 million).
The 60-year-old Batista intends to come back to Brazil and turn himself in to the authorities, according to his attorneys, who did not give a possible date for his return.