UPDATE 1-Brazil prosecutor seeks to freeze $641 mln in Batista's assets

sábado 13 de septiembre de 2014 15:11 GYT

(Recast lead and adds context about Batista's fortune)

BRASILIA, Sept 13 (Reuters) - Brazil federal prosecutors have filed criminal charges against Eike Batista, accusing the fallen tycoon of market manipulation and seeking to freeze up to $1.5 billion reais ($641 million) worth of his financial assets and properties.

The Rio de Janeiro prosecutor's office said on Saturday it is charging Batista for deceiving investors with a "simulated" promise two years ago to invest $1 billion in oil company OGX, now known as Oleo e Gas Participacoes SA, if shares fell to a certain level. Batista failed to fulfill his promise, known as a put option, when the shares touched that level.

Batista is also accused of using privileged information on several occasions last year to make a profit of 236 million reais with the sale of company stock, the statement said. The charges against Batista could carry up to 13 years in prison.

A representative of Batista's EBX Group said the industrial group will not comment on the charges. Batista has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in previous public statements on the case.

OGX filed Latin America's largest-ever bankruptcy-protection petition in Rio last October after its first oil wells produced less than expected and investors lost confidence in the company's ability to keep up with debt payments and finance new oil-field development.

The bankruptcy marked the nadir of Batista's EBX energy, mining, shipbuilding and port-operation group. OGX, the group's flagship company, has lost more than 99 percent of its value since 2010.

The prosecutor's office said Batista knew in advance that those wells were not worth the price of the stock.

Changes to Batista's put option were part of an updated restructuring plan of Oleo e Gas, as OGX is now called, released in May. A final decision on the put option will be based on reports from independent legal advisers, according to the document released by Oleo e Gas.   Continuación...