February 27, 2015 / 1:11 PM / in 3 years

Brazil judge who drove Batista's seized Porsche taken off case

RIO DE JANEIRO, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Brazil’s judicial obmudswoman has removed the judge presiding over the criminal proceedings against entrepreneur Eike Batista citing media reports that he had been driving one of the fallen tycoon’s seized automobiles.

Flavio Roberto de Souza, who had been presiding over Batista’s trial for insider trading, was photographed driving Batista’s white Porsche Cayenne by Brazilian daily Extra.

He later told Brazilian financial daily Valor Economico that he had been driving the car because the federal police had no safe place for it and he was worried it would be “exposed to sun, rain and possible damage.”

A number of vehicles and luxury goods belonging to Batista, who was once Brazil’s richest man, were confiscated by police following concerns he had been selling or donating assets frozen as part of the insider trading case.

“From various interviews, it is evident that the federal judge has ignored the Ethical Code of the Magistrate,” Nancy Andrighi, head of the oversight body for Brazil’s judicial system known as the CNJ, said in a statement late on Thursday explaining her decision to remove Souza earlier in the day.

Her ruling cited the judge’s use of a car which had been impounded from Batista, the CNJ said.

Batista’s case will now be redistributed at random to a new judge.

The move is a victory for Batista’s lawyer Sergio Bermudes who had been trying to get judge Souza taken off the case, arguing he had a bias against Batista.

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. (Editing by W Simon)

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