Brazil Celebrity Lawyer Takes on Prosecutor in Batista Detention

(Bloomberg) -- When pictures emerged of Joesley Batista on his way to turn himself in to police, the meat tycoon had a new, heavy-hitter companion by his side.

Antonio Carlos de Almeida Castro, a renowned criminal defense attorney in Brazil, was photographed through the dark-tinted windows of a Toyota SUV with the owner of meatpacking powerhouse JBS SA on Sunday afternoon. In a text message announcing he would defend Batista and another executive from J&F Investimentos SA at the Supreme Court, Kakay, as the lawyer is known, accused Prosecutor General Rodrigo Janot of acting disloyally and creating uncertainties for everyone who signed plea deals.

"I was hired to deal with their freedom," he said by phone Monday. "After the plea deal, there is a right to have that agreement preserved. The benefits granted must absolutely be upheld."

Kakay, who often criticizes Brazilian authorities for trying to make a show out of arrests and trivializing plea deals, said he was called to help once there was talk of imprisonment, joining reputed criminal lawyer Pierpaolo Cruz Bottini. 

Presidents, bankers

The list of famous clients in Kakay’s three-decade career is long and varied, including presidents, countless lawmakers and ministers, bankers and a soccer-player-turned-senator. His strategy to defend Batista is to question both the jailing by the Supreme Court -- similar to what he did with billionaire banker Andre Esteves in 2015 -- and the scrapping of the rights granted by the plea bargain. His first step will be to file a motion showing the arrest is unnecessary, he said.

"In all the plea deals I follow, there’s always been a chance for a ‘recall’ when prosecutors have questions," he said. "In this case they went straight for the prison request. It’s clearly being treated differently."

Referring to the chief prosecutor’s prior decision to waive charges against Batista, Kakay said that Janot "knows what he is being most criticized for is the immunity, and so he decided to revoke that immunity with no grounds for it." By doing so, he had "shot himself in the foot," Kakay said.

The general prosecutor’s office declined to comment.

Prosecutors earlier this month said Esteves, another of Kakay’s most well-known clients, didn’t participate in a corruption scheme and should be acquitted by the court, confirming the lawyer’s prediction the case would never make it to trial. The billionaire founder of investment bank Grupo BTG Pactual spent three weeks in Rio’s infamous Bangu prison in late 2015 and another few months in house arrest in Sao Paulo. He has since returned to the bank.

‘Not important’

Kakay reiterated that Batista has always been willing to deliver whatever prosecutors deem necessary as the deadline to hand over supplementary documents hasn’t expired. 

The plea deal with Janot fell apart after prosecutors found a tape recording of Batista and J&F executive Ricardo Saud boasting that they would not go to jail and discussing how a member of the prosecutors’ team was trying to influence Janot’s position in their favor.

The lawyer said the new audio that so enraged Brazilians is "not important."

"There’s nothing grave about it -- the only thing that’s grave is that Janot believes it so," he said.