Ex-Brazil tycoon Batista handed 30-year sentence for corruption

Eike Batista has received a 30-year jail term. (Reuters pic)

SÃO PAULO: Eike Batista, the former mining and oil magnate who was once Brazil’s richest man, was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison for bribing the state of Rio de Janeiro’s disgraced ex-governor, according to a court document published on Tuesday.

Batista’s conviction and sentencing by federal judge Marcelo Bretas are the latest in a wave of graft investigations that have sent scores of powerful businessmen and politicians to jail.

The eccentric former billionaire’s meteoric rise and fall mirrored the recent fortunes of Brazil, where the 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, whose legal team said he would appeal, was found guilty of paying a US$16.5 million (RM66.8 million0 bribe to former Rio governor Sergio Cabral, who also was found guilty in the case.

Batista’s companies won state contracts in exchange for the bribe, including one awarding his consortium the rights to run Brazilian stadium the Maracanã 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 US$3.7 billion (RM15 billion) Açu port facility, controlled since 2013 by Prumo Logistica, which is majority owned by US-based EIG Energy Partners.

Prosecutors said Batista paid a quarter of the bribes to Cabral in cash and the rest in shares of state-led oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA, miner Vale SA, and drinks company Ambev SA, a unit of Anheuser Busch Inbev NV.

Batista was last year fined 21 million reais (RM21.8 million) for trading shares based on insider information about shipbuilding company OSX Brasil.

Tuesday’s ruling was the sixth corruption conviction for Cabral, who has been sentenced to over 120 years.

Six years ago, Batista, 61, had a net worth exceeding US$30 billion (RM121 billion) and ranked among the world’s 10 richest people, according to Forbes magazine, and he had declared he would soon top the list.

He sat atop EBX, then one of the world’s most expansive industrial conglomerates, with units ranging from oil and shipping to entertainment and beauty care.

However, Batista made massive bets on offshore oil plays that did not pan out and the extension of a commodity boom that fizzled as he inflated investors’ hopes.