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Volkswagen to pay victims of Brazil military rule in landmark settlement

German automaker Volkswagen will pay about 36 million reais (£5.1 million) in compensation and donations to atone for the persecution of former workers during Brazil‘s 1964-1985 military dictatorship, the automaker said on Wednesday.

A government-appointed commission probing abuses during Brazil’s dictatorship found evidence that companies including Volkswagen secretly assisted the military to identify suspected “subversives” and union activists on their payrolls.

Many of the employees were then fired, detained, or harassed by police, and were not able to find new jobs for years afterward.

The automaker said it signed a settlement agreement on Wednesday with Brazilian state and federal prosecutors in Sao Paulo that includes the payment of 16.8 million reais ($3.02 million) to an association of former workers and their surviving dependents. The rest of the money will be donated to various human rights-related efforts.

The Brazilian prosecutors said in a statement that the deal will settle three investigations started since 2015.

“It is important to deal responsibly with this negative chapter in Brazil’s history and promote transparency,” said Hiltrud Werner, a Volkswagen board member, in a Portuguese-language statement.

The automaker’s settlement was first reported by German broadcasters NDR, SWR, and the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

Historian Christopher Kopper from the University of Bielefeld, Germany, who was commissioned by the automaker to look into the case, said the settlement would be historic.

“It would be the first time that a German company accepts responsibility for human rights violations against its own workers for events that happened after the end of National Socialism,” Kopper informed NDR, SWR, and SZ.

Volkswagen said that while Kopper’s investigation discovered cooperation between its Brazilian security agents and the military regime, there was no clear proof that cooperation was institutionalized in the company.

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