Volkswagen has been summoned before a labour court in Brazil on June 14 and faces accusations 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, reports Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung. The German giant said it is taking these accusations very seriously.
“We can assure you that we take the possible events at Fazenda Rio Cristalino, to which the investigation by the Brazilian investigating authorities refers, very seriously,” Volkswagen told Reuters. “Please understand that we are not commenting further due to possible legal proceedings in Brazil.”
Volkswagen is accused of having been complicit in “systematic human rights violations,” during a period of Brazilian history in which the country was run by a military dictatorship.
According to documents made up of testimonies and police reports consulted by the German outlet, the automaker was working on a large agricultural site on the edge of the Amazon basin for the meat trade.
Hundreds of day laborers were recruited for deforestation on 70,000 hectares (173,000 acres) of land via intermediaries but, the outlets report, likely with the consent of VW‘s management.
The site’s workers were allegedly the victims of abuse and violence, which was carried out by armed guards and others. There are also claims that workers who tried to flee were mistreated or disappeared under mysterious circumstances.
The lead prosecutor on the case, Rafael Garcia, told AFP that investigators had collected depositions from victims who were lured to the farm with false promises of lucrative jobs, then forced to cut down the jungle under grueling conditions against their will to make way for Volkswagen’s cattle ranch, which became the biggest in the northern state of Para.
“Workers who tried to escape were beaten, tied to trees, and left there for days,” he said.
“Those who tried to slip into the forest never came back — there were simply stories that they had been killed. Workers were systematically, physically abused.”
We emphasize that those responsible for these practices – if proven – be held accountable and impose more judicial oversight on the transcontinental companies, especially those working in developing countries.