Money seized from Brazil magnate vanishes from court safe

Brazil's securities and exchange commission CVM ruled Eike Batista broke conflict of interest rules (AFP Photo/Yasuyoshi Chiba)

Rio de Janeiro (AFP) - A corruption probe has taken a surprising turn in Brazil with the disappearance of money seized by court order from Eike Batista, once the country's richest man and now accused of insider trading.

According to the news weekly Veja, part of the $40,000 seized at Batista's mansion has gone missing from a court safe in Rio, along with some $200,000 taken from a Spaniard accused of drug trafficking.

The court in question is headed by Judge Flavio Roberto de Souza, who was removed from the Batista case March 3 after being photographed behind the wheel of the mining magnate's impounded Porsche Cayenne.

The Porsche was one of five vehicles that police seized on the judge's orders hours after he had frozen about a $1 billion in assets belonging to Batista and members of his family, according to the Brazilian press.

De Souza has since taken sick leave until April 8.

According to Veja, the judge was not the only person with keys to the court safe.

Batista's lawyer, Ari Bergher, told the local press he had received the news with "stupefaction."

"The defense has the right to demand the immediate restitution of the goods and securities illegally confiscated from Eike by the judge," he said.

Batista, a fallen icon of Brazil's boom years, is suspected of having used inflated oil production goals to mislead investors in order to raise a billion dollars for his struggling OGX oil company.

The company went under in 2013 after defaulting on a $45 million bond payment.