Former billionaire Eike Batista released from prison in Brazil

In this picture taken on Aug 8, 2019, Brazilian businessman Eike Batista (center) is escorted to a police station in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
In this picture taken on Aug 8, 2019, Brazilian businessman Eike Batista (center) is escorted to a police station in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.PHOTO: AP

BRASILIA (BLOOMBERG) - Eike Batista, once Brazil's richest man, was released from jail Saturday (Aug 10), as an appeals judge revoked a temporary arrest order that expired on Monday (Aug 12).

He had been detained last week as part of the ongoing corruption probe known as Carwash. His detention was ordered amid worries Batista might hinder the investigation into financial markets and privileged information.

The appeal justice cut short the arrest, ruling his detention can't be used as a tool to constrain the defense. Batista spent the night at his home, according to the press office of Rio de Janeiro's State penitentiary administration secretary.

Batista was already serving a 30-year sentence and under house arrest after being convicted last year of paying US$16.6 million (S$23 million) to get government contracts. His detention on Thursday included a freeze on 1.6 billion real (S$562 million) held by Batista and two of his sons, federal prosecutors from Rio said in a statement.

Brazil's Carwash probe started in 2014 and has resulted in convictions of high-profile politicians and business leaders including former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. The investigation raised awareness of endemic corruption and contributed to the election of President Jair Bolsonaro, who campaigned on a law and order platform.

Batista's commodities and logistics empire raised his personal fortune to more than US$30 billion at the start of the decade, turning him into one of the world's wealthiest people. Those riches evaporated after his group of startups went bust under a mountain of debt and insider-trading investigations.

He gained the rare distinction of "negative billionaire" in 2015 when his net worth sank to more than US$1 billion in debt.