By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The treasurer of Brazil’s ruling party, the PT (Workers Party) was arrested on Wednesday morning by the Federal Police. João Vaccari Neto was arrested at his home in São Paulo as part of the on-going mega-corruption scandal Operação Lava Jato (Carwash Operation). Vaccari Neto is being investigated for passive corruption and money laundering.
Former Petrobras executives have told Brazil’s Federal Police that Vaccari Neto received millions in election contributions from companies trying to obtain contracts with Brazil’s oil-giant Petrobras. The allegations were made by executives charged with money laundering and corruption, under a plea-bargaining deal for reduced prison terms.
Last week, the PT treasurer denied any wrongdoing before a Congressional Committee looking into the Carwash Operation scheme. According to Vaccari Neto, all corporate and individual electoral contributions were legally documented and registered with authorities. He also stated he never attended any of the alleged meetings where illegal donations were discussed.
“During the period when I have been Treasurer, I have always visited companies and people who have made donations. These donations have been voluntary, with no strings attached. We have documented these donations with the TSE (Electoral Courts) and there has never been any problem,” said Vaccari Neto before the Congressional committee.
Allegations against Vaccari Neto have dangerously tied the PT party to the mega corruption scandal which has shaken the Rousseff administration in the past few weeks. Some within the PT party have asked that Vaccari Neto be removed from the position, but party leaders insist he remain on.
According to national daily O Globo, along with Vaccari Neto, the Federal Police have also arrested the treasurer’s sister-in-law, and took statements from his wife. Both Vaccari Neto and his sister-in-law are on their way to Curitiba, where the investigation is headquartered.