Ikea’s French subsidiary and several of its former executives went on trial Monday over accusations that they illegally spied on employees and customers. Trade unions reported the furniture and home goods company to French authorities in 2012, accusing it of collecting personal data by fraudulent means and the illicit disclosure of personal information, the AP reports. The unions alleged that Ikea France paid to gain access to police files that had information about targeted individuals, particularly union activists and customers who were in disputes with Ikea. The company fired four executives and changed internal policy after French prosecutors opened a criminal probe in 2012. But at Monday's trial, lawyers for Ikea France denied any strategy of "generalized espionage."
An Ikea employee and CGT union activist, Hocine Redouane, said at Monday's trial that the company wrongly suspected him of being a bank robber because their investigation system found criminal records involving a bank robber with the same name. "Such a system can easily slip into abuse," Redouane said. Another accusation alleges the subsidiary investigated an employee’s criminal record to determine how the employee was able to own a BMW on a low income. The former head of Ikea France’s risk management department, Jean-François Paris, acknowledged to French judges that $633,000 to $753,000 a year was earmarked for such investigations. He is on trial along with former Ikea France CEOs Jean-Louis Baillot and Stefan Vanoverbeke, former Chief Financial Officer Dariusz Rychert, store managers, and police officers.
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