According to Reuters, an Argentine judge on Monday said he had opened a probe into allegations that former executives of Ford’s local unit were implicated in the “disappearances” of employees during the 1976-83 dictatorship.

Reuters said the probe announcement came just two weeks after DaimlerChrysler said it had set up an independent inquiry into the unexplained disappearance of 14 workers’ council representatives in Argentina in the 1970s.

According to Reuters, federal judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral, who is also probing the former bosses of the Argentine subisidary of what was then called Daimler-Benz, said he was probing “an allegation over the disappearance of people at a Ford factory” to determine whether to bring a criminal case.

“An investigation has begun. But it is in the early stages,” Canicoba Corral told Reuters, saying the allegation had been presented by a prosecutor against “former directors of the company.” He did not identify who the allegations were levelled against, Reuters added.

A spokesman for Ford’s Argentine unit told Reuters that the company had not been contacted about the probe and declined comment.

Reuters said that up to 30,000 suspected leftists died or disappeared — a euphemism for being kidnapped, tortured and murdered — under Argentina’s brutal military dictatorship.

Reuters added that many victims were thrown out of planes into the Atlantic Ocean while still alive. Many junta officers escaped prison thanks to amnesty laws.

Reuters said that, in late October, DaimlerChrysler’s board appointed an investigating commission to establish what happened to the 14 workers’ representatives – the investigation is due to end in September next year.

According to Reuters, the Association of Critical Shareholders has alleged that a German manager at the Mercedes plant in Gonzalez Catan gave the Argentine military the address of at least one workers’ council member in 1977 who later “disappeared”.