Investigations are underway in Brazil against the Volkswagen Group for the exploitation of slave labour, human trafficking and systematic human rights violations in hundreds of cases. The cases are said to have occurred between 1974 and 1986 – apparently with the knowledge of the board.

According to a media report in Brazil, the Volkswagen Group has to face a new investigation. As NDR, SWR and “Süddeutsche Zeitung” reported on Sunday, the local VW subsidiary has been accused of exploiting slave labor, human trafficking and systematic human rights violations in hundreds of cases. The allegations relate to the period from 1974 to 1986.

During this time, the carmaker set up the Companhia Vale do Rio Cristalino farm on the edge of the Amazon basin, the report said. The alleged crimes are said to have been committed on the farm site on temporary workers who were used for clearing work – according to the information “probably with the knowledge of the VW board in Wolfsburg”.

When attempts to escape failed, job brokers who were commissioned with the clearing by the farm management, together with their armed guards, are said to have shot, tied up and beat up temporary workers. Testimonies in the 84-page final report describe how a worker’s wife was raped after attempting to escape and how minors were held against their will on the farm. Seriously ill men threatened with weapons are said to have been forced to work. A guard is said to have put the gun in a man’s mouth. Many of the workers have disappeared from the farm. At least one man is said to have succumbed to his injuries.

The Brazilian investigative authorities officially informed Volkswagen Brazil of the proceedings in an official notification on May 19, 2022. The company was summoned to a hearing on June 14 before the Labor Court in the capital Brasília.

According to the report, the company did not want to comment on request with reference to the possible legal proceedings in Brazil. However, it has assured that it takes the allegations very seriously. “VW obviously not only accepted this form of slavery, but also promoted it – it was simply cheap labor,” said prosecutor Rafael Garcia.