SAO PAULO – Members of Brazil’s MST Landless Workers Movement occupied on Wednesday an estate belonging to a former business tycoon who is under house arrest while awaiting trial on bribery charges, an action that comes a day after they targeted other high-profile figures accused of corruption.
Nearly 200 families invaded a property of Eike Batista’s that is registered in the name of MMX, a mining company of his that has filed for bankruptcy protection, and is located in the metropolitan area of Belo Horizonte, the capital of the southeastern state of Minas Gerais, the MST said.
Batista, who once had a fortune estimated at $30 billion and 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.
He was arrested in late January for his alleged role in a corruption scheme orchestrated by the former governor of Rio de Janeiro state, Sergio Cabral, who was sentenced last month to more than 14 years in prison for corruption and money laundering.
Batista is accused of having paid $16.5 million in bribes to Cabral to secure contracts with the Rio state government.
“The occupied lands are now abandoned after having suffered environmental crimes due to indiscriminate mineral exploitation,” the MST said in a statement.
Another of Batista’s estates, also located in Minas Gerais, has been occupied since March by around 600 families.
On Tuesday, activists invaded three estates linked to prominent individuals accused of corruption.
One was a property in the interior of Sao Paulo state that was registered in the name of a friend of President Michel Temer but which the MST says really belongs to the latter, who recently became the first sitting Brazilian head of state to be charged with a criminal offense.
Lawmakers are set to vote next week on whether to allow Temer’s prosecution on charges he encouraged the payment of hush money to a potential witness in the massive corruption case centered on state oil company Petrobras.
The MST, one of Brazil’s most powerful grassroots organizations, has spent decades pushing for agrarian reform, demanding that giant estates be broken up to provide plots for landless farmers.