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Head of Brazil's Workers' Party goes on trial for corruption

© AFP/File | The head of Brazil's Workers' Party, Gleisi Hoffman, is on trial for corruption and money laundering

BRASÍLIA (AFP) - 

The head of Brazil's once dominant leftist Workers' Party, Gleisi Hoffmann, went on trial Tuesday for corruption and money laundering.

Hoffmann, a senator, is the latest in a long string of high-ranking politicians, including many from the Workers' Party, caught up in Brazil's sprawling "Car Wash" corruption probe.

Her husband Paulo Bernardo, a former planning and communications minister, was also on trial at the Supreme Court as part of the same case against Hoffmann.

Prosecutors accuse the couple of receiving a million reais in 2010, or $568,000 at the time, embezzled from state-oil company Petrobras. The money from the company was allegedly used in a campaign slush fund.

Investigators have uncovered a huge web of corruption centered on Petrobras, with the company handing out inflated contracts to Brazilian companies in exchange for bribes, many of which went into politicians' pockets.

Hoffmann's trial is a new blow for a party which led Brazil between 2003 and 2015 under presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff.

Lula, who founded the Workers' Party, was imprisoned in April after being convicted of corruption. Rousseff is out of politics, having been impeached and removed from office in 2015.

Hoffmann, who took over the party leadership in June 2017, said in a statement that she had been "unjustly accused, with no evidence."

The corruption charges can see sentences of between two and 12 years in prison, and the money laundering from three to 10. In addition, prosecutors are seeking restitution of four million reais, or just over $1 million at current rates.

© 2018 AFP