Nine months after the devastating mudslide in Brazil with at least 251 dead, survivors of the victims of a German manager of the testing organization TÜV Süd. The allegations: negligent homicide, negligent flooding and bribery.
Five wives, mothers and daughters of the victims of a mudslide on January 25 in Brumadinho have filed a criminal complaint with the Munich Public Prosecutor's Office, together with the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and the Catholic relief organization Misereor. The prosecution must now examine the case - and then decide whether to bring action against the competent for Germany TÜV Süd-Manager M. for Brazil.
The plaintiffs also appeal against the testing organization based in Munich. They accuse the internationally operating company of a "violation of supervisory duties", which can be punished as an administrative offense.
In the avalanche disaster, the Abraumdamm I of the iron ore mine Corrégo do Feijão of the raw materials multinational Vale near the city of Brumadinho was broken. A huge mudslide killed at least 251 people; Twenty-one others are still missing today and were most likely killed as well. In the months leading up to the accident, Brazilian TÜV officials had inspected the disaster dam in Brumadinho and certified it as stable - even though they had previously expressed massive internal doubts about the safety of the dam. Her supervisor was the German TÜV-Süd-Manager M.
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The Brazilian prosecution suspects that the examiners were lenient because they did not want to jeopardize business with the mining giant. Also passages from the internal e-mail traffic of the Brazilian TÜV employees point to it. Overall, TÜV Süd certified more than 30 dams for Vale. The Brazilian Federal Police accuse the examiners and Vale of using false documents.
It is the presumption of innocence
The ad now carries the case to Germany. "TÜV Süd, together with Vale, is directly responsible for the death of my sister and 271 other people," said Angélica Amanda Andrade to SPIEGEL. Andrade is one of the five women to file a complaint with ECCHR and Misereor. "I expect that this procedure draws attention to the negligence and irresponsibility of TÜV Süd," she says, "and that justice is being served in Germany."
The Munich company did not comment on the allegations with reference to the ongoing investigations in Brazil. The accused TÜV Süd-Manager did not respond to a corresponding SPIEGEL request.
14 picturesDam failure: devastating mudslide in Brazil
M. is said to have been a kind of "CEO for technical and administrative decisions" in Brazil, according to the statement of a Brazilian TÜV-Süd-Prüfer. M. should not only have accompanied her work by email, but also through regular visits and on-site meetings. From the internal email traffic of the Brazilian TÜV Süd employees before the disaster it is clear that the security problems of the dam in Brumadinho should be discussed with M.
Only a few days after the mail change, a meeting with M. took place. However, so far no clear evidence is known that then actually talked about Brumadinho. It is the presumption of innocence. TÜV Süd has itself initiated investigations.
"He should have stopped the fake reports"
Angélica Amanda Andrade, on the other hand, is convinced that M. knew about the condition of the dam. "He should have stopped the fake reports, and I blame him for purposely choosing to risk human lives and terrible environmental damage."
Video: Security camera films dam break
Misereor justifies his participation in the ad by stating that TÜV Süd and the employees responsible for Brumadinho should be held accountable. According to prosecutors in Brazil, the authorities would have intervened if the dam had not been certified, "says Susanne Friess, Mining Adviser. Friess: "Then the operation would have been shut down, the population below the dam would have been evacuated, and so hundreds of people would probably still be alive today."
The case shows, according to Friess, that German companies must be obliged by law to exercise due care in their dealings abroad. Misereor and other aid organizations have been calling for such a supply chain law for years. So far in vain: the resistance of the Union and the Confederation of German Employers' Associations is too great. It is unlikely that the Brazilian women's ads will change that.