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Ikea France ex-boss denies any role in staff spying scheme

·2-min read
The French branch of Swedish retailing giant Ikea is being prosecuted as a corporate entity along with several former executives

The former chief executive of Ikea's French operations on Friday denied any role in setting up an elaborate system to spy on staff and job applicants using private detectives and police officers.

The French branch of Swedish retailing giant Ikea is being prosecuted as a corporate entity along with several former executives in Versailles, southwest of Paris.

Prosecutors say Ikea France collected details on hundreds of existing and prospective staff, including confidential information about criminal records as part of a "spying system", sometimes targeting union members and their representatives.

The court is investigating Ikea's practices between 2009 and 2012, but prosecutors say they started nearly a decade earlier.

Ikea France's former director of risk management Jean-Francois Paris on Thursday accused ex-chief executive Jean-Louis Baillot of ordering the scheme in 2007 during a meal at an Ikea cafeteria south of Paris.

"It's ridiculous, grotesque. Can you imagine discussing such a sensitive subject next to all the employees (at the cafeteria), despite having headquarters next door with meeting rooms?" Jean-Louis Baillot told the court Friday.

"I practically never saw Mr Paris," said Baillot, insisting his former colleague had "complete autonomy" and did not answer to him.

Jean-Francois Paris admitted Thursday that he regularly sent lists of names of people "to be tested" to private investigators, whose combined annual bill could run up to 600,000 euros (around $700,000), according to court documents seen by AFP.

But Paris says the retailing giant and its former executives have sought to shift the blame solely onto his shoulders, after devising the scheme in response to a series of armed robberies from 2000.

"It's rather cowardly of the company, who put the system into place and then left me to fend for myself," he told the court Thursday.

Ikea France, which employs 10,000 people, faces a fine of up to 3.75 million euros ($4.5 million).

Founded in 1943, Swedish multinational Ikea is famous for its ready-to-assemble furniture, kitchen appliances and home accessories which are sold in 400 stores worldwide.

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