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Ex-treasurer of Brazil's ruling party sentenced to 15 years in Petrobras kickback scheme

FILE - In this April 9, 2015, file photo, the former Workers' Party's Treasurer Joao Vaccari listens to a question during his testimony to a congressional committee in Brasilia, Brazil. Vaccari was sentenced Monday, Sept. 21, 2015, to over 15 years in prison for his role in a kickback scheme at state-run oil company Petrobras (AP Photo/Cadu Gomes, File)

FILE - In this April 9, 2015, file photo, the former Workers' Party's Treasurer Joao Vaccari listens to a question during his testimony to a congressional committee in Brasilia, Brazil. Vaccari was sentenced Monday, Sept. 21, 2015, to over 15 years in prison for his role in a kickback scheme at state-run oil company Petrobras (AP Photo/Cadu Gomes, File)

The former treasurer of Brazil's governing Workers' Party was sentenced Monday to over 15 years in prison for his role in a kickback scheme at state-run oil company Petrobras.

Joao Vaccari was found guilty of taking at least $1 million in bribes, including money handed over in the form of campaign donations made by oil field services company Toyo Setal between 2008 and 2012, according to the ruling by federal judge Sergio Moro.

Also sentenced was Petobras' former head of corporate services, Renato Duque, who got over 20 years on corruption charges. Moro said that Duque was responsible for funneling the cash to Vaccari and that he had also taken at least $9 million in bribes in exchange for helping construction and engineering firms win inflated contracts with Petrobras.

Both men can appeal their sentences, but will remain in prison as their likely appeals play out.

Vaccari's arrest in April brought the Petrobras scandal closer to President Dilma Rousseff, who served as chairwoman of Petrobras' board for several years as the sprawling kickback scheme is alleged to have played out. She herself has not been accused of any crimes and has repeatedly maintained her innocence.

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Prosecutors say at least $2 billion in bribes were paid for over a decade, mostly by construction and engineering firms to high-level Petrobras executives. In return, the companies were awarded inflated contracts for building refineries, drilling platforms and ships, among other services.

Described by authorities as the biggest corruption scheme ever uncovered in Brazil, the scandal has shaken the nation's political and business establishment. Over 50 sitting congressmen and other top political officials are under investigation, including the leaders of both houses of Congress.

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