RIO DE JANEIRO – A tycoon once considered Brazil’s richest man was arrested on Monday after arriving on a flight from New York in Rio de Janeiro, where he voluntarily surrendered to authorities.
Eike Batista, who was the subject of an arrest warrant, said Sunday night in New York that he was returning home to cooperate with investigators.
Federal Police officers were waiting at the Rio de Janeiro airport when he arrived.
The 60-year-old businessman, charged with paying $16.5 million in kickbacks to former Rio de Janeiro Gov. Sergio Cabral in connection with public contracts, was arrested as soon as he stepped off the plane.
Batista, listed as the 8th richest person in the world by Forbes in 2010 with a fortune estimated at $30 billion, underwent a routine medical examination before being taken to jail.
Judge Marcelo Bretas issued an arrest warrant for Batista in connection with the giant Petrobras corruption scandal.
“I am returning to respond to the justice system, as is my duty ... The time has come to clear things up. I’m returning because I am going to show how things were,” the businessman told reporters before boarding his flight in New York.
Batista, a dual Brazilian-German citizen, denied that he planned to flee to Germany, a country that Brazil would have difficulties extraditing him from.
Batista allegedly paid a $16.5 million bribe to Cabral, jailed since November for embezzlement.
A fictitious contract that simulated the purchase of a gold mine was drawn up to disguise the illegal payment, authorities allege.
Police raided Batista’s Rio de Janeiro home earlier this month.
Investigators found that Cabral set up a criminal organization in 2002 as a regional lawmaker and that it expanded between 2007 and 2014, when he was serving as state governor, prosecutor Leonardo Freitas said earlier this month.
Cabral amassed $100 million in ill-gotten funds that he stashed away in foreign bank accounts, police say.
Batista, who once controlled a conglomerate comprising companies in oil, mining, shipbuilding and other sectors, suffered a spectacular fall from grace due to the plunge in global crude prices and risky business ventures.
Last year, Batista agreed to cooperate in a sprawling bribes-for-inflated contracts probe centered on state oil company Petrobras, admitting that he made undeclared “donations” in 2013 that helped then-President Dilma Rousseff’s administration pay off debt stemming from her successful presidential run three years earlier.
Batista said he made the payments at the request of then-Finance Minister Guido Mantega.
Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court says Batista’s “donations” benefited 13 parties and amounted to 12.6 million reais ($3.8 million).