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Brazil official charged in Petrobras bribery case

Prosecutors on Monday filed new corruption charges arising out of the huge bribery scheme at Petrobras, the national oil company, against the treasurer of the ruling Workers Party — putting additional pressure on President Dilma Rousseff at a time when she is fighting calls for her ouster over the burgeoning scandal.

The charges against the treasurer, João Vaccari, moved the payoff scandal closer to Ms. Rousseff herself. A former executive at Petrobras testified earlier this month that he met with Mr. Vaccari to define how the party should receive bribes from contractors vying for business with the oil giant.

The former Petrobras executive, Pedro Barusco, who was also charged in the scheme on Monday, said that the Workers Party had received as much as $200 million in bribes. Mr. Barusco said that some of those payoffs were channeled to Ms. Rousseff's first presidential campaign, in 2010.

"Vaccari knew that the payments were actually bribes," Deltan Dallagnol, a prosecutor in the investigation, told reporters in the southern city of Curitiba.

The developments in the scandal have shaken Brazil's political establishment, with the Supreme Court authorizing investigations of powerful legislators in Ms. Rousseff's ruling coalition. Setting an important precedent in Brazil, corporate executives accused of paying the bribes have spent months in jail as investigators examine the charges.

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No testimony has emerged suggesting that Ms. Rousseff, who led the Petrobras board of directors during much of the time that the payoff scheme unfolded, personally profited from the scheme.

While political analysts say that her impeachment or resignation remain unlikely, Ms. Rousseff has been put on the defensive, grappling with plunging approval ratings and large antigovernment protests as the country's once hardy economy falters.

Benjamin Tavener /Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Responding to the latest developments in the scandal, Ms. Rousseff said Monday that the work by the prosecutors pointed to institutional independence in Brazil.

"If they want to investigate, then they're going to investigate, and those who are responsible will pay for what they've done," she said.

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The Workers Party, which has held power since 2003, has repeatedly denied that it received illegal campaign donations. Mr. Vaccari has also denied wrongdoing.

In addition to Mr. Vaccari, prosecutors filed corruption charges on Monday against 26 others including Renato Duque, a former high-ranking Petrobras executive with close ties to powerful figures in the Workers Party.

The Federal Police took Mr. Duque into custody on Monday after investigators said they had found more than $20 million in accounts controlled by him in Monaco and other tax havens.

Sérgio Moro, the judge overseeing the investigation of the bribery scheme, said Mr. Duque had moved the money into the accounts last year in an attempt to hide it from the authorities.

The police on Monday also seized a vast art collection at Mr. Duque's home in Rio de Janeiro, including works by the painters Djanira da Motta e Silva and Alberto da Veiga Guignard.

Mr. Duque was previously detained by the police last year until a justice on the high court ordered his release. Alexandre Lopes, a lawyer for Mr. Duque, said his client denied having any involvement in illicit activities at Petrobras.