Ikea 'paid French police for secret files on staff'

Man leaves Ikea obscured by sign Investigative websites say Ikea has paid for illegal access to police files

A French newspaper has claimed that Swedish furniture giant Ikea paid for illegal access to police files on its staff and customers.

The weekly Le Canard Enchaine published what it said were emails where Ikea managers asked police for information.

More than 200 checks on criminal records and vehicle registrations were asked for, the paper says.

A spokesman for Ikea France vowed to investigate, but would not confirm or deny the allegations.

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

"We intend to carry out a full investigation to find out what if anything has been taking place. But we stress that our own investigation in no way amounts to any kind of admission that these practices have been carried out."

Payments for data

The newspaper report quoted emails requesting information on employees, including union members, and asking to know who were the owners of certain car registrations.

The paper said that Ikea was offered access to the files by the police for 80 euros ($100) a time, as well as to a database of vehicle owners.

It said the information was used in deciding whether to fire certain staff members, and also in resolving disputes with certain customers.

Ikea France allegedly asked for police files on a customer who was suing the shop for 4,000 euros and for the name of the owner of a car that approached the site of a future shop.

The BBC's Christian Fraser says it is possible that not all the information the company gleaned was correct.

A 2008 report into the so called STIC police database revealed only 17% of the documents on individuals were accurate.

Any illegal access to the files carries a penalty of up to 300,000 euros and up to five years in prison.

10 Ikea employees have said they plan to issue a formal complaint, but the interior ministry told the BBC that none had so far been received.

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