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4 Sep 2015

Jeb Blount, Reuters

Brazil: Labour court convicts Odebrecht Group for forced labour of Brazilian workers in Angola

“Brazil convicts Odebrecht Group for slavery-like practices in Angola”, 1 September 2015

A Brazilian labor court convicted units of Brazil's Odebrecht Group of holding workers in conditions akin to slavery at an ethanol refinery construction project in Angola...[and]…ordered Odebrecht to pay 50 million reais ($13 million) in damages...The issue was first brought to the attention of prosecutors by a series of reports on the Brazilian service of the BBC…about a series of lawsuits filed against Odebrecht Group in the small town of Americo Brasiliense, Brasil, where many of the workers were recruited…Odebrecht…improperly lured Brazilian laborers to jobs in Angola where they were forced to work without proper visas in unsanitary work camps...In Angola their passports were confiscated and their ability to leave the work camps was blocked by armed guards…[M]any had worked up debts with labor subcontractors while they waited for passports and travel papers for Angola...The contractors' actions and efforts to illegally import the Brazilian workers to Angola and restrict their movement was akin to the practices of human traffickers...Even though many of the abuses suffered by the Brazilian workers in Angola were carried out by third parties, the court ruled that Odebrecht was ultimately responsible for the entire project and benefited from the abuses. Odebrecht had argued that the abuses were carried out by an independent foreign subsidiary and as a result it had no direct control of the abuses…And…Brazilian courts had no jurisdiction. The court disagreed, saying that overall management of the entire project was in the hands of Odebrecht's main Brazilian-base construction unit.