SAO PAULO (AP) — The treasurer of Brazil's ruling Workers' Party Thursday told a congressional panel investigating the kickback-corruption scheme engulfing stated-owned oil company Petrobras that all the donations made to his party during last year's political campaign were perfectly legal.
Joao Vaccari, who has been charged with corruption and money laundering, told the committee that the donations received by the party were registered at, and approved by, the Supreme Electoral Court.
According to federal prosecutors, the scheme involved the alleged payment of at least $800 million in bribes and other funds by big construction and engineering firms in return for inflated contracts with Petrobras. Part of that money allegedly went to the Workers Party and other top parties for political campaigns.
Vaccari's testimony was briefly interrupted when a man released several brown mice in the hearing room. Security personnel quickly rounded them up and the session resumed.
At the session broadcast live by the Globo TV network, Vaccari said he never discussed the party's finances or donations with former Petrobras executive Pedro Barusco, who has acknowledged his involvement in the scheme. Barusco last month said he had discussed the payment of bribes with Vaccari.
During an event in which the government delivered 500 low-cost public housing units, President Dilma Rousseff Thursday said that Petrobras had "cleaned up what it had to clean."
"Petrobras has gotten rid of those it had to get rid of — those who took advantage of their position in the company to enrich themselves," she said without citing names.
In an interview aired on Wednesday by CNN's Spanish-language service, CNN en Espanol, Rousseff said she was certain no money from kickbacks made its way to her campaigns.
"My campaign received no money from bribes," she said. "All Brazilian citizens must render accounts and I rendered mine to the electoral tribunal that were audited and approved."