Brazil’s federal police arrested João Vaccari Neto, the treasurer of Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff’s worker’s party (PT), at his home in São Paulo today for alleged involvement in a corruption scheme at Brazil’s state-controlled oil company, Petrobras. Prosecutors say they have “ample proof” that the treasurer knowingly accepted bribes from contractors seeking business from Petrobras. Former Petrobras executives have said he received some $200 million in kickbacks.
Vaccari is the closest person to Rousseff to be arrested so far in the unfolding investigation. Brazil’s president was chairperson of Petrobras’ board of directors between 2003 and 2010. She has denied any knowledge of corruption at the company—a stance that is becoming increasingly difficult for Brazilians to swallow as the scandal reaches her inner circle. So far 97 people, including politicians and former Petrobras executives, have been indicted on charges ranging from money laundering and forming a cartel, to skimming money off the top of construction contracts with Petrobras.
Police carried out three other warrants, including one for Vaccari’s wife, Giselda Rose de Lima.
Vaccari denied the accusations on Friday April 9 when he spoke before a congressional committee. He admitted meeting with people who organized the corruption scheme (link in Portuguese) but said all the donations accepted by the PT were legal. Just before his testimony, a government staffer, who has since been dismissed, released one hamster, one rat and two Mongolian squirrels into the committee room.