Documents found in the rubble of the collapsed Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh show that Italian fashion giant Benetton was still producing clothes in Dhaka garment factories right up to the disaster.
The company had earlier denied any involvement with manufacturers in the building but later recognised a "one-time order" that was completed and shipped several weeks before the tragedy. It said the manufacturer "had been permanently removed from the list of potential direct or indirect suppliers [as it] no longer met the stringent standards that made it eligible to even potentially work for us".
Benetton "strongly reiterated" that none of the Rana Plaza manufacturers supplied any of the group's brands. "We have since established that one of our suppliers had occasionally subcontracted orders to one of these Dhaka-based manufacturers," Benetton said.
However, fresh documents found in the Rana Plaza rubble and obtained by IBTimes UK demonstrate that as recently as 23 March, 2013, workers in the building were still producing clothes for Benetton. The building collapsed a month later - on 24 April.
A finishing audit report shows defect details for some of the consignment of women's shirts such as "joint stitch not proper". The document is labelled New Wave Style Ltd, one of the manufacturers based in the Dhaka building.
"These documents confirm very recent production and could also point to current production, but it might have been through Shahi Exports PVT so it could be possible that Benetton is unaware how recent production is," Liana Foxvog, director of organising and communications at the International Labour Rights Forum, told IBTimes UK.
The documents were photographed by the Bangladesh Garments and Industrial Workers Federation (BGIWF) and Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity (BCWS) and passed on to the forum
Another document, dated 11 December, 2012, contains measures and adjustments for women's shirts made for Benetton. A Shahi Exports-labelled sheet for Benetton, although blurred, reveals shipping and packing details and is dated 8 February, 2012.
"After one week, it's very puzzling that Benetton releases statements in which they do not assume responsibility for what's happened," said Deborah Lucchetti with the Clean Clothes Campaign in Italy. "Their explanations are directed at muddying the waters. Their statements are inconsistent.
"It's their problem if they were unaware how recent their production is," she continued. "Facts are that Benetton-labelled clothes and documents have been found in the Rana Plaza rubble. We call on Benetton to assume direct responsibility for that."
IBTimes UK has already published documents that indicated that the Italian retailer had a protracted relationship with New Wave Style Ltd.
The illegally constructed, eight-storey building collapsed on 24 April killing at least 501 people.