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Former Commodities Tycoon Jailed In Brazil As Part Of Corruption Probe

Jan 31, 2017
Originally published on February 1, 2017 5:25 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A few years ago, the Brazilian entrepreneur Eike Batista was one of the 10 richest people in the world. Last night, he was in prison. Here's NPR's Philip Reeves.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: Batista's flight from New York no sooner touched down than he was arrested, taken by police for a medical checkup and driven here to the Bangu Prison complex in Rio. Eunice Gomes is by the gates in the visitor's waiting area. Gomes says her son-in-law Paulo is doing time for not paying child maintenance in the same wing as the former billionaire Batista. She knows what awaits him.

EUNICE GOMES: (Speaking Portuguese).

REEVES: "The living conditions are awful," says Gomes. Brazilians remember Batista as the shining star of their nation's boom years as a commodities tycoon with a fortune of some $34 billion and a white Lamborghini on display in his front room. He lost most of his business empire when the economy crashed several years ago. Prosecutors accuse Batista of money laundering and bribery. His case is a spinoff from Brazil's massive and widening contracts for kickbacks scandal involving the state-run oil giant Petrobras and lots of politicians and executives.

Batista returned home after a warrant was issued for his arrest. He says he's come back voluntarily to clear matters up. As Brazil's corruption scandal grows, so, it seems, does the contempt Brazilians feel for their leaders. Sitting by the prison gates, Eunice Gomes saw Batista being driven inside. The former multibillionaire's lustrous hair had been shaved off like any normal prisoner. Gomes says she feels not a glimmer of pity. She sees this as a lesson for Batista...

GOMES: (Speaking Portuguese).

REEVES: ...In what it feels like in Brazil to be poor. Philip Reeves, NPR News, Rio de Janeiro Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.