EspañolBrazilian judge Flávio Roberto de Souza stands accused of driving a Porsche Cayenne impounded during a case he was presiding over, Brazil’s judiciary reported on Monday. Police also found five other cars, luxury items, and nearly US$200,000 in cash confiscated in judicial investigations at his home.
The magistrate argued in his defense that as federal police had no place to keep the vehicle after confiscating it from high-profile businessman Eike Batista, he decided to protect it from the elements in the covered parking space at his home.
On February 26, Souza was taken off the case, and on Sunday, March 8, the authorities confiscated his passport.
“It’s absolutely normal. I wrote to Detran (the National Transport Department) that the car was at the court’s disposal. Lots of judges do it,” Souza told the authorities.
“It was kept in a secure place, away from the risk of damage, in my building’s garage, which has CCTV surveillance. It wasn’t used, only brought and taken away. Nothing was done in the shadows; it’s all documented,” he added.
As well as being seen driving the Porsche, the judge had in his possession a grand piano and a Land Rover truck also confiscated during the case, both of which belonged to Thor Batista, son of the business tycoon who was once the richest man in Brazil.
— Correio Braziliense (@correio) February 26, 2015
“Judge has five days to explain his ‘joyride’ in Eike Batista’s Porsche.”
On February 26, the National Justice Council took Souza off the judicial proceedings involving Batista, following a request made by the billionaire’s lawyers. A special body of the Regional Federal Court opened disciplinary proceedings against him two days later, with the judge asking for medical leave until April 8.
Batista’s trial for alleged market manipulation and insider trading will be continued under an as-yet unknown judge.
Souza, however, is suspected of more than just helping himself to the physical possessions of the Batista family. According to a report published Saturday by Brazilian weekly Veja, some R$116,000 (approximately US$37,000) confiscated in the case, which should be in the vaults of Rio de Janeiro’s Federal Criminal Court, has disappeared under Souza’s watch.
However, as Souza was not the only individual to have access to court coffers, the case remains under investigation.
Nevertheless, after coming across the Porsche, the team of magistrates investigating Souza also found R$600,000 (approximately US$193,000) that the judge had confiscated from drug-trafficker Oliver Ortiz de Zarate Martin in 2013 in a separate case.
In light of these multiple suspect activities, Brazil’s Federal Police decided to confiscate the judge’s passport on Sunday.
Souza declined to make any statements to the press, saying he was barred from doing so by investigating officials.
The confiscation of Batista’s goods follows the bankruptcy of companies belonging to his EBX group, and will be used to pay for future compensation claims.
Raphael Mattos, one of Batista’s lawyers, told local news source G1 that he was yet to be officially notified about the disappearance of the confiscated money. The defense team had previously argued that the judge was not sufficiently reliable to take up the case against the 58-year-old business magnate.
As well as the two vehicles, cash, and the piano, federal police also impounded four other cars belonging to the business leader, including a Lamborghini, 16 watches, a century-old Faberge egg, a cell phone, and various documents. Sergio Bemudes, another member of Batista’s defense counsel, has claimed that investigating officials haven’t left the businessman enough money “to buy bananas for his three-year-old son.”
Translated by Laurie Blair. Edited by Guillermo Jimenez.