Prosecutors say they have filed charges against Brazil's former presidential chief of staff for his alleged involvement in the massive corruption scheme at state-owned oil company Petrobras.

Corruption, racketeering and money laundering charges against Jose Dirceu were filed on Friday.

Sixteen other people were 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.