Batista trial descending into farce

Batista trial farce

Batista's face appears during a fundraising telethon November 2010. Source: Igor Leandro

Brazilian tycoon Eike Batista's fortune topped out at an eye-watering $32.8bn in April 2012 when his oil and gas firm OGX's first wells went into production and his coal, iron ore, shipping and many other ventures were humming along.

Now the 58-year old Eike (he prefers to be called by his first name) is on the hook for debts of at least $1 billion and standing trial on insider trading and market manipulation charges for dumping stock in OGX before anyone else knew that the offshore oil company's wells were mostly dry.

Rio de Janeiro-based Judge Flávio Roberto de Souza ordered the seizure of more than $500 million of physical assets, including real estate, airplanes and yachts from Batista and his family in February.

The seizure of the Batista belongings from his home in Rio's Botanical Gardens area which included his beloved sports cars thousands in cash, luxury watches and even a Faberge egg were carried out as ordered.

But rather than going into a pot to repay creditors, Judge de Souza himself was seen driving around in Batista's Porsche and parking other vehicles in his own garage to "look after them".

While that incident elicited howls of protest and derision, de Souza's latest transgression is a little more serious. He has now been formally charged with making false statement and taking for himself more than $360,000 of seized drug cash in a separate case.

The Financial Times reports prosecutors are now working to refile charges under a new judge some time this year, although Batista may face fewer charges than the previous six counts which included insider trading, misleading investors (he was allegedly encouraging his Twitter followers to buy OGX shares at the same time he was dumping them not long before the collapse) and criminal conspiracy.

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Batista, one of seven children, was born into mining as the son of a CEO of iron giant Vale who later became Brazil's mining minister.

The young Eike led the playboy lifestyle, dropping out of engineering school, marrying a carnival queen and Playboy model and becoming a speedboat world champion.

He started out with small-scale gold mining in the Amazon which morphed into TVX Gold, a company listed in Canada in the 1980s but which Batista left under a cloud before it was sold to Kinross Gold in 2001.

Batista's graduated to the big leagues during the last decade's commodities boom with gold, iron ore, oil & gas, shipping, coal, construction and sports promotion companies.

OGX's off-shore oil discoveries (such as there were) was set to give credence to Batista's publicly stated goal of amassing a $100 billion fortune to become the richest person in the world.

Ever the consummate salesman, Batista famously sold Minas Rio to Anglo-American in 2008, pocketing $5.5 billion and offloading an iron ore asset that required many billions more to put into production.

Batista's unmatched political connections more than just opened doors. He received the backing of Brazil's development bank to the tune of $10 billion and OGX's top managers came from state-owned oil giant Petrobras.

Petrobras is also embroiled in a corruption scandal that has the potential to topple the administration of President Dilma Rousseff and has already snagged top officials of her party and government.