BERLIN (AFP) – Germany’s Volkswagen Group faces accusations of “slavery” practices in Brazil during the South American country’s military dictatorship in the 1970s and 80s, German media said on Sunday (May 29).
Volkswagen has been summoned to appear before a labour court in Brasilia on June 14, following a notification sent by the local judiciary on May 19, ARD public television and the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily reported.
A VW spokesman told AFP it was taking the matter “very seriously”.
However, the world’s second-largest carmaker did not want to say more at this stage “due to possible legal proceedings”.
The case covers the period from 1974 to 1986, when the dictatorship was in full flow to just after it ended. The military reigned in Brazil between 1964 and 1985.
Former VW employees have been seeking compensation for several years.
According to the reports, the Brazilian judiciary is examining complaints that allege the car manufacturer used “slavery-like practices” and “human trafficking”, and accuse the group of having been complicit in “systematic human rights violations”.
At the time, the German group had planned to build a large agricultural site on the edge of the Amazon basin for the meat trade.
Hundreds of day labourers and temporary workers were recruited for deforestation work on 70,000 ha via intermediaries, but probably with the consent of the manufacturer’s management, German media reported.
The outlets consulted over 2,000 pages of testimonies and police reports.
According to the German reports, the workers were sometimes subjected to abuse and violence by intermediaries and armed guards.
There are also claims of mistreatment of workers who tried to escape and even suspicious disappearances.