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Party treasurer snared in Petrobras scandal

March 24, 2015

Brazil's ruling Workers Party treasurer Joao Vaccari has been ensnared by the ongoing scandal at state oil giant Petrobras. President Dilma Rouseff has seen her popularity plummet as the affair unfolds.

Brasilien Joao Vaccari Neto
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/C. Villalba Racines

Workers Party (PT) treasurer Joao Vaccari is to stand trial on corruption and money laundering charges relating to a corruption scandal at state energy conglomerate Petrobras, court documents revealed monday.

Vaccari, along with 26 others, is set to be tried for demanding "bribes in the form of electoral donations" for the party of president Dilma Rousseff, according to investigators.

The Petrobras controversy centers on a kickback scheme at the state-run oil giant in which at least $800 million (730 million euros) was paid in bribes and other funds by the nation's biggest construction and engineering firms in exchange for inflated Petrobras contracts.

Several top executives are already in jail and the country's attorney general is investigating dozens of influential congressmen in connection with the corruption. When the corruption scheme began to unfold in 1997, Rousseff's party had not yet taken power - but she was formerly the chairwoman of Petrobras' board.

Vaccari is alleged to have received donations totaling more than $1.2 million (1.1 million euros). He is one of the most prominent leaders yet to be accused in the scandal.

The PT said last week that Vaccari would remain in his office unless proven guilty. The judge responsible for the investigation in the Brazilian city of Curitaba has not called for Vaccari's arrest.

Brasilien Antiregierungsproteste in Sao Paulo
Over a million Brazilians demonstrated against Rousseff in cities across BrazilImage: picture-alliance/dpa/S.Moreira

Rousseff's popularity plummets

The revelations come as a poll indicated Monday that a majority of Brazilians favor impeaching president Rousseff over her involvement in the Petrobras scandal and as the Brazilian economy continues to slump.

According to the polling firm MDA, 59.7 percent of Brazilians favor impeaching Rousseff, and 68.9 percent hold her responsible for the corruption scandal at Petrobras.

The same poll found Roussef's personal favorability ratings have also plummeted, with only 18.9 percent of Brazilians viewing her favorably, down from 55.6 percent in September.

More than one million Brazilians demonstrated in cities across the country on March 15 to demand Rousseff's impeachment, though opposition leaders have resisted these calls and say removing her from office is unlikely.

Prosecutors have found no evidence Rousseff was involved in the Petrobras corruption scheme.

bw/rc (AP, AFP, Reuters)