(Bloomberg) -- Eike Batista, formerly Brazil’s richest man, has been sentenced to 30 years in prison in connection with the sprawling Carwash corruption probe.
Batista was convicted of paying $16.6 million to Rio de Janeiro’s former governor to facilitate contracts with the state government, according to a sentence published on the website for Rio’s judicial system. Batista’s lawyer Fernando Martins said in an email that he will appeal. Batista is currently under house arrest and Rio’s former governor, Sergio Cabral, is in prison.
“Precisely because he was a world-famous businessman, his criminal business practices were potentially capable of contaminating Brazil’s business environment and reputation, causing deep scars to the confidence of investors and entrepreneurs who, in the recent past, saw Brazil as a good investment option,” the judge, Marcelo Bretas, wrote in his decision.
Brazil’s Carwash probe started in 2014 and has resulted in convictions of high-profile politicians and business leaders whose stars rose during the commodities boom of the previous decade -- including former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. The investigation raised awareness of endemic corruption and made it a major campaign issue ahead of elections in October. Still, the release of some convicts has raised questions about how long the prison sentences will stick.
A police raid of Batista’s hillside mansion last year found a Lamborghini Aventador parked in the living room and a safe full of cash, but not the suspect. Police declared him an international fugitive and, upon his return to Brazil, jailed him temporarily. He was released and put under house arrest three months later.
Batista’s commodities and logistics empire raised his personal fortune to more than $30 billion at the start of the decade, turning him into one of the wealthiest people in the world. Those riches evaporated after his group of startups went bust under a mountain of debt and insider trading investigations. He gained the rare distinction of “negative billionaire” in 2015 when his net worth sank to more than $1 billion in debt.
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