The judge overseeing the insider-trading trial of Brazil’s most-famous fallen billionaire was removed from the case after he was accused of taking a joy ride in one of the defendant’s seized luxury cars.
Judge Flavio Roberto de Souza breached the court’s ethics code by allegedly using assets seized from ex-billionaire Eike Batista, Brazil’s judicial oversight body said late Thursday in a statement. The proceedings against Batista will be reassigned to another court and Souza will be subject to a disciplinary investigation, according to the statement.
Souza didn’t reply to an e-mail seeking comment on the decision.
Batista’s Porsche Cayenne Turbo S, which was part of the businessman’s luxury car collection seized by Souza during the trial, was seen parked this week in the garage of the judge’s Rio apartment building. Sergio Bermudes, Batista’s lawyer, petitioned to get the judge kicked off the case after providing photos showing the $157,000 white SUV exiting Souza’s building.
While the driver isn’t identifiable in the images, Souza told Agencia Estado newswire that he took the car to his building’s garage because of a lack of parking at police and court facilities. He told newspaper Folha de S.Paulo that he also left a piano belonging to Batista and a second vehicle owned by the entrepreneur’s son Thor with neighbors of the magistrate’s apartment building.
“There is no interpretative breach that allows a judge to keep or request the usage of a defendant’s property,” Brazil’s justice inspector general said in the statement. “It’s clear from several interviews that the federal judge chose to ignore the courts ethics code.”
Batista, who lost most of his $34.5 billion fortune when his energy and commodities empire collapsed, is being charged by Rio prosecutors with illegally dumping shares of his oil company using privileged information. The company, at the time known as OGX, tumbled 95 percent in 2013 as it filed for bankruptcy protection after cutting output targets and halting most operations.
Once Brazil’s richest man, Batista is now more than $1 billion in the red, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, giving him the rare distinction of being a “negative billionaire.”