French Ikea executives questioned over police-file spying scandal

Furniture giant accused of paying for secret police files to snoop on customers and staff

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 November, 2013, 8:33pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 November, 2013, 8:33pm


Two executives at Ikea France were being questioned by police as part of a probe into allegations the company illegally used police files to spy on staff and customers, a judicial source said.

Stefan Vanoverbeke, Ikea France's chief executive and its finance chief, Dariusz Rychert, were formally detained for questioning by police in Versailles on Monday, the source said yesterday.

Former CEO Jean-Louis Baillot was also being questioned, a police source said separately. French prosecutors launched a criminal probe in April last year following allegations that Ikea paid for illegal access to secret police files to gain information about employees and clients.

Keen to repair its reputation, Ikea France subsequently fired four employees, launched an internal inquiry and established a code of conduct to avoid a repeat of the scandal.

The questioning follows police seizures at the company's headquarters in the Paris suburbs this month.

Several people have been charged in connection with the case, including Ikea France's former risk management head Jean-Francois Paris.

Four civilian police employees have also been charged.

Media reports have said sources were paid about €80 (HK$835) in each case to hand over files from the police file system, which tracks millions of names and personal information about criminals, victims and even witnesses.

Reports alleged Ikea France requested information on its own employees, including union members, the owners of certain car registrations and names associated with a list of mobile phone numbers. In one case the company allegedly asked for information on a customer who was suing it for €4,000. The police probe in Versailles followed a complaint filed by labour unions.

An Ikea spokesman in France said: "We disapprove in the strongest way possible of all these kinds of illegal practices, which are an affront to important values such as respect for a person's private life."