SAO PAULO (AFP) – The growing scandal engulfing Brazilian oil giant Petrobras hit the ruling Workers’ Party close to home Thursday as its treasurer was detained over allegations of involvement in a multibillion-dollar kickback scheme.
Joao Vaccari Neto, the treasurer of President Dilma Rousseff’s party, was temporarily held for questioning in a corruption probe that has drawn in a number of politicians – including members of the ruling coalition.
“We want information on the cash donations he requested, legal or illegal, from people who had contracts with Petrobras,” prosecutor Carlos Fernando Lima told a press conference.
But he said it was “still very premature” to determine exactly what role Vaccari played.
Vaccari was questioned for several hours at federal police headquarters in Sao Paulo before being released.
Brazilian media reports say suspects arrested in the investigation have told police that Vaccari funneled illicit cash from Petrobras to the Workers’ Party (PT).
The oil firm’s former engineering chief, Pedro Barusco, reportedly told investigators that the ruling party received between $150 million and $200 million skimmed off the 90 largest Petrobras contracts from 2003 to 2013, and that Vaccari “participated” in the scheme.
Vaccari’s lawyer said his client “welcomed the opportunity… to demonstrate the countless inaccuracies published by the press in recent months.”