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Brazilian prosecutors say they're seeking US help in tracking bribes in Petrobras graft probe

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RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil's prosecutors investigating a big kickback scandal at state-run oil company Petrobras said Monday that they are asking U.S. authorities for help in building their case.

The federal prosecutor's office said in an emailed statement that it was "inspired by the FIFA case," in which the U.S. brought charges against some of the world soccer organization's top figures. It didn't say which U.S. agency had been asked for help.

Brazilian prosecutors say the Petrobras case involves hundreds of millions in kickbacks paid by Brazil's biggest construction and engineering firms to former politically appointed Petrobras executives. In return, they won lucrative construction contracts, which often ballooned far beyond original budget estimates.

The CEOs of Brazil's two biggest builders, Odebrecht and Andrade Gutierrez, were jailed last week and several others have been imprisoned in recent months.

Dozens of congressmen are also under investigation for their alleged roles in the scheme. Prosecutors allege that some of the funds were funneled into the campaign coffers of the governing Workers' Party and its allies.

Beyond the allegations of bribery, Brazil's construction firms were among the biggest corporate donors in the past two major election cycles in Brazil. Such donations are legal under Brazilian law, but a former Petrobras executive has testified in a plea bargain deal were known to come with the expectation that government contracts would be offered up in return.

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