Judge Caught Driving Defendant’s Car Says He Was “Just Looking After It”

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Things haven't gone too well for Eike Batista over the past few years. Once the richest man in Brazil and among the top ten in the world (he supposedly made it to eighth place), with a net worth of about $35 billion in 2012, he is now believed to owe about $1.2 billion. He is also on trial in Rio de Janeiro for (shockingly) alleged insider trading and market manipulation, and the judge presiding over his trial, Flávio Roberto de Souza, ordered that all of his assets be seized. This included hundreds of millions in cash and real estate, as well as numerous luxury vehicles.

A couple of weeks later, that same judge was seen driving a white Porsche Cayenne. Coincidentally, Batista owns a white Porsche Cayenne. Or at least he used to.

Having learned of this, Batista's lawyer did not hesitate to tell some reporters, who did not hesitate to go out and confirm that de Souza was indeed driving the defendant's car around town while presiding over his criminal trial. This greatly strengthened Batista's argument that de Souza is biased against him. This argument was previously based on news interviews the judge has given (including one in which he called Batista a "megalomaniac"), but now was also based on the fact that he was driving the defendant's car around town while presiding over his criminal trial.

Of course, there was a perfectly good explanation for this that you cynics are overlooking.

"The Federal Police did not have a safe place for the car," de Souza told a reporter, "and it was exposed to sun, rain and possible damage. As I want the car to be preserved in good condition, I took it to a covered parking space." Yes, this covered parking space was at the building where he lives, now that you ask. But "I did not take it to use," the judge insisted, "just to look after it…. It is a normal situation."

So here I am trying to do the defendant a favor, and you media types want to paint it as something out of the ordinary. It's perfectly normal for a judge to look after the defendant's assets while presiding over a criminal trial. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to testing the engines on this 115-foot yacht. Gas turbines don't tune themselves, gentlemen.

An equally cynical court of appeals has since removed de Souza not just from Batista's case, but from all cases, for an "undetermined period." Who will care for the Cayenne, the yacht, the Lamborghini, the other luxury cars and jewelry and various mansions in the judge's absence is not clear. I guess they'll just be sitting out there in the parking lot, exposed to the elements. It's sad, really.