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Ex-billionaire Eike Batista targeted in Brazil corruption probe

By Andrew V. Pestano
Ex-billionaire Eike Batista targeted in Brazil corruption probe
Eike Batista, seen here in 2015, is facing arrest upon his return to Brazil, authorities said. He and eight others were targeted in a police operation on Thursday related to a corruption scandal. Authorities accuse the suspects of laundering more than $100 million. Photo courtesy of Eike Batista

Jan. 26 (UPI) -- Brazilian authorities on Thursday began an operation seeking the arrest of nine people, including former billionaire Eike Batista, related to the Petrobras corruption scandal.

Brazilian Federal Police attempted to arrest Batista at his home in an upscale Rio de Janeiro neighborhood, but Batista's lawyers said the former billionaire was traveling, adding that he planned to turn himself in to authorities after returning, G1 Rio de Janeiro reported.

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Police said Batista and the other suspects -- identified as "large business owners" -- are accused of laundering about $100 million, most of which has already been repatriated to Brazil. The suspects are accused of active corruption, passive corruption, criminal organization and money laundering.

About 80 Brazilian Federal Police officers carried out arrest and search and seizure operations on Thursday. The warrants were issued by Brazil's 7th Federal Criminal Court.

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Batista's $35 billion fortune plummeted after Brazil's economy crashed starting in 2014, which led to the collapse of his Grupo EBX conglomerate.

Dozens of Brazilian business leaders and politicians have been indicted for corruption, money laundering and racketeering over the scandal in Petrobras, a semi-public oil and gas company. Politicians are accused of accepting bribes -- either personal bribes or bribes distributed to their political party -- in exchange for lucrative government contracts.

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In 2015, the Brazilian economy was nearly 5 percent smaller than it was the previous year. The Petrobras scandal is partly to blame because it led to decreases in foreign investment.

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