Brazil ruling-party treasurer accused of graft: prosecutor

PT Treasurer Joao Vaccari has been charged with corruption in the Petrobras case (AFP Photo/Roosewelt Pinheiro)

Curitiba (Brazil) (AFP) - Brazil's public prosecutor on Monday formally accused the ruling Workers' Party (PT) treasurer Joao Vaccari of corruption, including money laundering, relating to the massive kickbacks scandal enveloping state-owned oil firm Petrobras.

Prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol told a news conference in the southern city of Curitiba that Vaccari "urged payment of a portion of bribes in the form of electoral donations" to the party of President Dilma Rousseff, according to testimony collated by investigators.

Vaccari, one of the biggest names yet to fall under suspicion in a snowballing scandal that has gripped Brazil, allegedly received donations worth four million reais, or $1.2 million at current rates.

It comes a day after mass anti-government protests drew more than a million people into the streets.

The graft scheme comprised a 10-year program of kickbacks and political payoffs that allegedly siphoned off $3.8 billion from Petrobras via inflated contracts.

Rousseff, who was re-elected to a second term in October but whose poll ratings have since plunged, chaired the Petrobras board during much of the alleged corruption period.

She is not being investigated, but leaders of her ruling coalition in Congress have been named in an ever-widening probe, along with a who's who of Brazilian politicians.

The list of politicians under investigation is headed by Senate president Renan Calheiros and Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Eduardo Cunha, both leaders of the centrist Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, or PMDB, a key component of Rousseff's ruling coalition.

So far, 13 senators, 22 deputies and two governors have been placed under investigation.