August 8, 2019 / 12:08 PM / 3 months ago

Brazil police again arrest Eike Batista, once Brazil's richest man

RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug 8 (Reuters) - Police in Brazil on Thursday arrested Eike Batista, the charismatic mining and oil magnate who was once Brazil’s richest man, on suspicion of money laundering and “capital market manipulation.”

In a statement, police said they arrested the eccentric former billionaire at his home in Rio de Janeiro. They were also seeking to arrest one other unnamed suspect, and were carrying out four search warrants on Thursday morning.

Batista has been under house arrest since early 2017 on separate charges, and in early 2018 he was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison for paying now-imprisoned former Rio de Janeiro Governor Sérgio Cabral a $16.5 million bribe in exchange for state construction contracts. He has been allowed to stay under house arrest while he appeals the verdict.

Batista’s meteoric rise and fall mirrored the recent fortunes of Brazil, where a commodities boom faded as his energy, mineral and logistics empire fell apart earlier this decade.

His swashbuckling attitude and confident forecasts of a prolonged golden era for Brazil evaporated just as Latin America’s largest economy suffered its worst recession on record.

Batista’s bribes were linked to the rights to run Brazil’s temple of soccer, the Maracana in Rio, the stadium where the 2014 World Cup final was played and the 2016 Olympic Games’ opening and closing ceremonies were held.

The bribes were also linked to the construction of the $3.7 billion Açu port facility, controlled since 2013 by Prumo Logistica SA.

In recent years, scores of wealthy businessmen and high-profile politicians, previously thought untouchable, have been imprisoned in Brazil for their role in graft schemes. Many, however, have managed to avoid or put off prison thanks in part to the nation’s Byzantine appeals process.

Police offered few additional details on the new case against Batista on Thursday.

In July, officials in Rio auctioned off a white Lamborghini that Batista famously kept in his living room, as well as a luxury yacht he owned, for a combined 3.3 million reais ($832,000).

$1 = 3.9686 reais Reporting by Rodrigo Viga Gaier Writing by Gram Slattery; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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