Prosecutors in a Brazilian corruption scandal are aghast at what they are uncovering. A web of bribes, kickbacks, and slush funds is embroiling some of the biggest businesses and most well-known public figures in the country. The sums, often disguised as corporate donations, are currently estimated to exceed a staggering $1.02 billion ($US 800 million)!

Warrants have been issued compelling the treasurer of the country-wide Workers’ Party to testify in court. In all, the courts have thus far issued 62 legal warrants for arrest, search and summons.

The proceedings relate to a massive and intricate kickback scheme organised by the state-run oil company Petrobras.

Last year a former Petrobras director implicated the current treasurer Joao Vaccari Neto. Mr Neto was ordered to testify and reveal his knowledge of the scheme.

“We want to obtain information regarding donations he requested, legal or illegal,” said prosecutor Carlos Kima, “involving people who had contracts with Petrobras.”

Only $217.8 million ($US 170 million) of the monies have been recovered. More than 230 businesses are being investigated for links to the scheme. 86 people – so far – have been indicted and are awaiting trial. Many being top executives, from some of Brazil’s main construction and engineering firms, are already serving prison sentences for their roles in the affair.

The prosecutors’ investigation has widened this last month to include politicians. Dozens are expected to be named Persons-of-interest in the coming days.

The investigation came one day after Maria das Gracas Foster, and five top directors, resigned their posts at Petrobras. Rumours had been circulating about the company’s dubious business practices. Petrobras announced the resignations with a terse one-sentence statement on the company website saying the executives would be replaced Friday.

President of the lower house Chamber of deputies, Eduardo Cunha, approved the creation of a special congressional panel to investigate the kickback scheme. The panel is empowered to investigate the “practice of illicit acts and irregularities at Petrobras between 2005 and 2015.”

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