Brazil judge in Batista case seen driving tycoon's seized Porsche

Brazilian tycoon Eike Batista checks his mobile phone before his court hearing in Rio de Janeiro November 18, 2014. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

By Stephen Eisenhammer RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - The Brazilian judge presiding over criminal proceedings against charismatic entrepreneur Eike Batista, once Brazil's richest man, was seen on Tuesday driving a Porsche belonging to the fallen tycoon that had been seized by the court. Flavio Roberto de Souza, who is overseeing Batista's trial for insider trading, was seen driving the white Porsche Cayenne by reporters for Estado de S.Paulo's news agency after a tip-off from Batista's lawyer. The car was one of a number of luxury vehicles confiscated by police earlier this month following a court order. Local media said investigators had seized the cars because of concerns Batista had been selling or donating assets that were frozen as part of the insider trading case. When asked why he was driving the Porsche, Souza told local business daily Valor Economico: "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," he said. The cars were meant to be put up for auction this Thursday, but Batista's lawyer secured an injunction halting the sale. Batista lost almost everything as his EBX conglomerate fell apart and his flagship oil firm OGX filed for Latin America's largest bankruptcy in 2013. The business magnate, whose rise and fall have mirrored Brazil's own fortunes, recently resigned as chairman of Oleo E Gas Participações SA, as OGX is now known. Prosecutors accuse Batista of selling 236 million reais ($85 million) of OGX stock based on privileged information that its offshore oil fields would miss production forecasts. Batista denies selling the stock based on insider information, and says he was legally obliged to sell it to pay off debt. The Porsche incident is likely to give further ammunition to Batista's lawyer, Sergio Bermudes, who has been trying to get judge Souza taken off the case. Bermudes has argued that Souza has a bias against Batista, pointing to comments the judge made on the first day of trial in November. Souza told reporters at the time that Batista's career had been a "megalomaniac dream." (Reporting by Stephen Eisenhammer; Editing by Todd Benson and Gunna Dickson)