Brazil Businessman Eike Batista Ensnared In Corruption Probe

SÃO PAULO—Brazil’s Federal Police are trying to arrest Brazilian businessman Eike Batista Thursday after a local judge issued a warrant in relation to a wide-ranging corruption scandal involving government contracts.

Police raided Mr. Batista’s house in Rio de Janeiro early Thursday, but the billionaire businessman wasn’t at home, a police spokesman said.

The police are looking to arrest nine people, including Mr. Batista, as part of an investigation into money laundering of as much as $100 million, the spokesman said.

The warrant for Mr. Batista’s arrest follows allegations that he paid bribes during the tenure of Rio de Janeiro’s governor Sergio Cabral from 2007 to 2014 to obtain advantages in certain government contracts.

A lawyer for Mr. Batista, Sergio Bermudes, said the businessman is outside Brazil and referred further questions to Mr. Batista’s criminal lawyer, who wasn’t immediately available for comment.

Mr. Batista in recent years has sold assets and dismantled his former industrial group to pay off his huge debt, after an empire formed by oil, mining and logistics firms collapsed.

Mr. Batista is the latest high-profile businessman to be ensnared in the anticorruption efforts by local authorities, which has led to long prison sentences for a string of industrial elites who benefited from government and state run firms contracts.

They include construction executive Marcelo Odebrecht, the former chief executive of Brazil’s largest construction company, Odebrecht SA, who was sentenced to 19 years for money laundering, corruption and organized crime.

Mr. Cabral was arrested in November as part of an investigation into alleged bribery and misuse of government money. The former governor, who remains in prison, denied wrongdoing previously.

Brazilian prosecutors said in September that Mr. Batista paid bribes of $2.35 million to the presidential campaign of former President Dilma Rousseff.

The prosecutors, who are leading Brazil’s so-called Operation Car Wash investigation centered on embezzlement at state oil company Petróleo Brasileiro SA, said Mr. Batista came forward “spontaneously” to offer them the information in June 2016.

Prosecutors filed no charges against Mr. Batista at the time and said they were investigating the alleged payment. Thursday’s operation is an offshoot of the sprawling Car Wash probe.

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