SAO PAULO (AP) — Federal prosecutors on Friday filed corruption, racketeering and money laundering charges against Jose Dirceu, Brazil's former presidential chief of staff, for his alleged involvement in the massive corruption scheme at state-owned oil company Petrobras.
Sixteen other people were also charged, including Joao Vaccari Neto, the former treasurer of Brazil's governing Workers' Party and Renato de Souza Duque, Petrobras' former head of corporate services.
Dirceu is the most senior member of the ruling Workers' Party to be taken into custody in connection with the scheme.
Dirceu served as former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's chief of staff between 2003 and 2005. He was arrested early August in his home, where he already was under house arrest serving an 11-year sentence for his involvement in a cash-for-votes scheme in Congress more than 10 years ago.
Prosecutors have said that Dirceu masterminded the kickback scheme at Petrobras, accepted bribes while in office and continued to receive payments from contractors after he was jailed in late 2013 for the vote-buying scandal.
According to prosecutors, the scheme at Petrobras involved roughly $2 billion in bribes and other illegal funds. Some of that money was allegedly funneled back to campaign coffers of the ruling party and its allies. It also allegedly included the payment of bribes to Petrobras executives in return for inflated contracts