I've been following the interesting insider trading prosecution trial of former Brazilian billionaire Eike Batista that has been unfolding in Rio de Janeiro. Three years ago, Batista was worth $30 billion and was declared "the pride of Brazil" by Brazil's President. After the October 2013 collapse of his oil company, Batista is now reportedly worth negative $1 billion, and he is a defendant in a trial that could make him the first person ever sent to prison in Brazil for insider trading.
One of the most striking things about the trial and criminal proceedings now taking place in Brazil is the very, ummm, "different" conduct of the judge presiding over the case. In the U.S., of course, we are accustomed to judges declining to make any comments on a case that they are handling, and generally bending over backwards to avoid any appearance of impropriety or bias. Although this appears to be the expectation of judges in Brazil, as well, Judge Flavio Roberto de Souza of the federal court in Rio de Janeiro is now under fire for multiple eye-opening comments and actions in the Batista case.
First, on November 18, 2014, Judge Souza ruffled some feathers when he called Batista "megalomaniacal" in a conversation with reporters following the trial's first hearing. Judge Souza called Batista a "symbolic figure," adding that "I always say he was the poster boy of his own companies and with a megalomaniac dream of becoming the world's richest man. To see a person with that type of attitude sitting on the accused bench is really a historic moment."
Yesterday, the Batista trial was "thrown into turmoil" when reporters spotted Judge Souza driving Batista's white Porsche Cayenne that had been previously seized by authorities along with several other luxury vehicles belonging to Batista. According to Reuters, Judge Souza told local reporters that he was just trying to help out, stating:
The Federal Police did not have a safe place for the car and it was exposed to sun, rain and possible damage. As I want the car to be preserved in good condition, I took it to a covered parking space [in the building where I live]. I did not take it to use, just to look after it... It is a normal situation.
Later in the day, Batista’s girlfriend posted a photo on Instagram that purportedly showed Batista's Range Rover also parked in the judge’s garage along with the "mocking" comment, “Thank you your excellency for taking such good care [of the car].”
This Porsche incident combined with the judge's earlier comments have led Batista's lawyers to request that Judge Souza be removed from the case.