Volkswagen appoints expert to examine Brazil torture claims

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Volkswagen (VW) has commissioned an expert to examine if the German carmaker allowed the arrest and torture of employees in Brazil under the country's former military regime.

Professor Christopher Kopper of Bielefeld University will research claims VW collaborated with the military government from 1964 to 1985.

A group of former employees filed a law suit against the company last year.

Some claim they were arrested and tortured at a VW plant in Brazil.

VW has previously investigated its own role in the use of slave labour in Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

The company was set up in 1937 by the Deutsche Arbeitsfront, the Nazi trade union organisation. During the war, VW made vehicles for the German army using more than 15,000 slave labourers from nearby concentration camps.

In 1998, survivors file a lawsuit against VW, which set up a restitution fund.

'Dark years'

VW said that Professor Kopper would start work as soon as possible and would travel to Brazil.

Christine Hohmann-Dennhardt, a member of the board at VW who is responsible for integrity and legal Affairs, said: "We will clarify the company's role during the military dictatorship in Brazil with the requisite consistency and perseverance in the same manner as we engaged in the early and comprehensive clarification of issues relating to the National Socialist past and the employment of forced labour."

She added: "We want to shed light on the dark years of the military dictatorship and explain the behaviour of those responsible at that time in Brazil and, if applicable, Germany."

A report by Brazil's national truth commission in 2014 highlighted the case of Lucio Bellentani, a former VW employee.

He said: "I was at work when two people with machine guns came up to me.

"They held my arms behind my back and immediately put me in handcuffs. As soon as we arrived in Volkswagen's security centre, the torture began. I was beaten, punched and slapped."

According to lawyer Rosa Cardoso, 12 employees at the Sao Bernardo do Campo site near Sao Paulo were tortured, while others were laid off and placed on blacklists.