BRASILIA, Sept 13 (Reuters) - The Rio de Janeiro prosecutor’s office has asked a federal court to freeze financial assets and up to 1.5 billion reais($641 million) worth of property from Eike Batista, accusing the fallen Brazilian tycoon of market manipulation.
In a statement on Saturday, the prosecutor’s office said that Batista deceived 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.
A representative for Batista and his industrial group EBX could not be reached for comment on Saturday. 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 prosecutor’s office said Batista knew in advance that those wells were not worth the price of the stock. It said the charges against Batista could carry up to 13 years in prison.
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.
The prosecutor’s office asked for the freeze of Batista’s planes, boats, cars and other financial assets in Brazil to later compensate investors hurt by his alleged market manipulations.
Back in May, a Brazilian court ordered up to 122 million reais in assets held by Eike Batista be frozen as part of an investigation into unfair market practices.
Brazil’s market regulator, CVM, is also investigating alleged market manipulation by Batista. (1 US dollar = 2.3390 Brazilian real) (Reporting by Alonso Soto; Editing by Rosalind Russell)