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Brazil corruption: Ruling party heavyweight sentenced to 15 years in prison

BRASÍLIA, Brazil – The former treasurer of Brazil’s ruling party was sentenced Monday to more than 15 years in prison for his role in a massive corruption scandal at state oil giant Petrobras.

The judge investigating the scandal found João Vaccari, who was the Workers Party treasurer until April, guilty of “corruption, money-laundering and conspiracy,” and sentenced him to 15 years and four months.

Vaccari was accused of receiving bribes from Petrobras contractors and distributing them to members of the ruling party.

“The crimes of corruption involved the Workers Party’s receipt, with the accused’s intermediation, of at least 4.26 million reals [$1.06 million] in bribes,” the judge said in his ruling.

The verdict was in one of several cases that have been brought against Vaccari in the Petrobras scandal.

Also sentenced Monday was a former Petrobras Director Renato Duque, who was given a sentence of 20 years and eight months in prison for allegedly taking bribes. Contractors are alleged to have paid off certain Petrobras directors in return for inflated contracts, which they divided up among themselves.

Some of the kickbacks were alleged to have been paid to prominent politicians, most of them members of President Dilma Rousseff’s governing center-left coalition in the Congress.

Petrobras estimates it lost about $2 billion dollars in the scheme, which ran from 2004 to 2014.

See also: Brazil S&P downgrade forces a fiscal reckoning

The former treasurer of Brazil’s ruling Workers’ Party João Vaccari is escorted by police officers to a medical examination after being arrested in Curitiba, Brazil, on April 16, 2015.

AFP/Brazil Photo Press/Geraldo Bubniak

Brazil corruption: Dilma Rousseff’s dismal ratings

The scandal has dealt a major blow to Rousseff, whose approval ratings have plummeted to eight percent just eight months after her re-election to a second four-year term. Rousseff has not been personally implicated in the scandal, although she was chair of Petrobras’ board from 2003 to 2010.

Others have landed behind bars, however, including José Dirceu, the powerful former chief of staff of former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and executives of some of Brazil’s biggest construction companies.

Among those under criminal investigation are the president of Brazil’s lower house of Congress, Eduardo Cunha, and Senator Fernando Collor, who resigned as the country’s president in 1992 amid a corruption scandal that led to his impeachment.

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