Versailles, France, March 22 (AFP/APP): The French branch of Swedish retailing giant Ikea went on trial Monday accused of running an elaborate system to spy on staff and job applicants using private detectives and police officers.
Ikea France, as a corporate entity, is being prosecuted in a court in Versailles, southwest of Paris, as well as several of its former executives who risk prison terms.
French investigative publications Le Canard Enchaine and Mediapart uncovered the surveillance scheme in 2012, and magistrates began investigating after the Force Ouvriere union lodged a legal complaint. Prosecutors say Ikea France set up a “spying system” across its French operations, collecting information about the private lives of hundreds of existing and prospective staff, including confidential information about criminal records.
Since the revelations, the company has sacked four executives, but Ikea France, which employs 10,000 people, still faces a fine of up to 3.75 million euros ($4.5 million).
The 15 people being tried in the court include former store managers and top executives such as former CEO Stefan Vanoverbeke and his predecessor, Jean-Louis Baillot. Both men were present on Monday but declined to comment to waiting reporters.
The group also includes four police officers accused of handing over confidential information. The charges include illegal gathering of personal information, receiving illegally-gathered personal information, and violating professional confidentiality, some of which carry a maximum prison term of 10 years. “We’re here to today to show that there are these types of actions inside companies that police trade unions and above all their employees,” a senior member of the hard-left CGT union, Amar Lagha, told reporters.
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