Dutch company accused of slavery
The Argentinian authorities accuse Dutch grain merchant Nidera – one of the world’s biggest - of human trafficking and tax evasion.
Argentinian police on 30 December raided a Nidera plantation near Buenos Aires, where they found 133 seasonal workers living under conditions “resembling a concentration camp”. Seven of the company's executives were arrested and Nidera was fined 125,000 euros. In addition, the Argentinian tax authorities suspect Nidera of evading 49 million euros in taxes during the 2005-2009 period.
Labour Minister Oscar Cuartango says the conditions under which the workers lived and worked bordered on “crimes against humanity”. Two holes in the ground served as toilets, a container for pesticides was used as a bath. They had no electricity, very little drinking water and were not allowed to leave the plantation. The workers were charged exorbitant amounts for food and water, and earned almost no money.
Nidera has denied all charges, claiming that “It’s a local issue”. The company refused to comment on the arrests of seven of its executives. Nidera says it has not received official notification of the alleged tax evasion. Nidera produces and trades in soy, rice and various seeds and grains, and is active in 22 countries.
In Argentinia, the Nidera investigation is seen as an important victory in the government’s campaign against the exploitation of farm workers. The Nidera plantation is seen as symptomatic for the situation in Argentinian agriculture. Hundreds of thousands of agricultural workers are believed to be working illegally and under very poor circumstances.
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