Volkswagen was summoned before a Brazilian labor court on June 14 and faced charges of using “slavery-like practices” and “human trafficking” in the country between 1974 and 1986.
The automaker was notified by the judiciary in Brasilia, Brazil, on May 19, according to the German Sueddeutsche Zeitung. The German giant says it is taking the allegations “seriously”.
“We can assure you that we have taken into account the possible incidents in Fajenda Rio Cristalino, which the investigation by the Brazilian authorities is very serious,” Volkswagen told Reuters. “Please understand that we are no longer commenting due to possible legal proceedings in Brazil.”
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Volkswagen has been accused of being involved in “systematic human rights abuses” during a period in Brazil’s history when it was ruled by a military dictatorship. The automaker was working on a large agricultural site at the edge of the Amazon Basin for the meat business, according to evidence from a German outlet consulted and documents prepared by the police report.
Hundreds of day laborers were hired to clear 70,000 hectares (173,000 acres) of land through intermediaries, but outlets reported, probably with the consent of VW’s management.
Site staff have been accused of abuse and violence, which was carried out by armed guards and others. It was also claimed that workers who tried to flee were mistreated or disappeared under mysterious circumstances.
According to Agence France-Presse, a woman has claimed that her child died as a result of violent torture. Another was reportedly sexually assaulted as punishment. Others, meanwhile, have been accused of inhumane working conditions at the site, including deaths from malaria and burial on the site without informing their families.
“It was a form of modern slavery,” prosecutor Rafael Garcia, who is in charge of the investigation, told the media. “VW did not explicitly adopt this form of slavery but encouraged it, because it was cheap labor.”
The former VW workers have been seeking compensation for years and, in 2020, the automaker signed an agreement with Brazilian federal prosecutors to participate in the military dictatorship and pay 36 million races (সময়ে 6.4 million at the time) as compensation for its role. Identify opponents and union leaders who were then detained and tortured.