Ikea France, two former CEOs and a risk management official are among 15 people facing possible fines, jail time or both for an alleged spy system aimed at filtering out troublemakers in the ranks and profiling quarrelsome customers between 2009 and 2012.
The unions accuse Ikea France of collecting personal data by fraudulent means, including through illegally obtained police files, and of unlawfully disclosing personal information.
If convicted, the company, which said it had cooperated with the investigation, faces a fine of up to 3.75 million euros ($ 4.5 million).
At the end of a two-week trial in Versailles in March, prosecutor Pamela Tabardel asked the court to sentence Ikea France to a fine of 2 million euros, “an exemplary sentence and a strong message to all businesses “.
Lawyers for Ikea France have denied that the company has any strategy of “widespread espionage”.
But the executive then in charge of risk management, Jean-François Paris, admitted before the French judges that 530,000 to 630,000 euros per year were reserved for such investigations. Paris – the only official to have admitted the alleged illegal detective – said his department was responsible for managing the operation on the orders of former CEO Jean-Louis Baillot.
Paris is charged with possession of personal information and aiding and abetting illegal disclosure.
The two former CEOs are accused of aiding and abetting the illegal collection and receipt of stolen personal information, among other things. If they are found guilty, they face penalties of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of 750,000 euros.
Baillot, CEO from 1996 to 2009, denied having ordered a spy operation.
For Ikea France’s lawyer, Emmanuel Daoud, the whole case is marked by a lack of tangible evidence and holes.
The unions alleged that Ikea France paid to gain access to police files containing information on targeted individuals, in particular union activists and customers in conflict with Ikea. Two police officers who provided information are among those awaiting trial.
Among the charges was the alleged use of unauthorized data by Ikea France to attempt to catch an employee who had applied for unemployment benefits but was driving a Porsche. In another suspected illegal seizure case, the subsidiary reportedly investigated an employee’s criminal record to determine how the employee may have owned a low-income BMW.
The company fired four executives and changed its internal policy after French prosecutors opened a criminal investigation in 2012.
The company also faces potential damages resulting from civil lawsuits brought by unions and 74 employees.
In France, Ikea, a subsidiary of the Swedish furniture store, employs more than 10,000 people in 34 stores, an e-commerce site and a customer support center.
Elaine Ganley in Paris contributed.
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