Brazilian federal prosecutors on Monday indicted seven officials with the Infinity Bio-Energy ethanol factory for having subjected 1,551 workers to a "condition analogous to slavery."
The abuses were discovered in 2009 in the sugar cane fields and distilleries that the firm owns in the municipalities of Pedro Canario and Conceição da Barra, in the southeastern state of Espiritu Santo.
Employees had to work an exhausting schedule, many received salaries lower than the legal minimum and working conditions included serious deficiencies in terms of safety and health.
"The meals were insufficient, they were served in inappropriate places and, often, were spoiled due to lack of preservation," prosecutors said in a statement.
Salary payments were made seven days after the work was completed on the basis of calculations determined by the company about which the employees were not informed.
Day laborers also were not allowed the necessary rest periods or paid for the nearly two hours it took them to get to the fields in buses provided by the firm.
Among the seven people accused are five top officials of Infinity Bio-Energy, who if found guilty could be sentenced to eight years in prison and heavy fines.
The other two defendants are blamed for recruiting - or capturing - the workers.
Ethanol is produced from sugar cane and is mixed with gasoline in Brazil but the sugar cane industry is one of the sectors that is most plagued by the abuse of workers. EFE