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30 Mar, 2021 15:17

Prosecutors request jail term for IKEA France's ex-CEO and €2 million fine for company over alleged spying on staff

Prosecutors request jail term for IKEA France's ex-CEO and €2 million fine for company over alleged spying on staff

Public prosecutors in France have called for IKEA's French subsidiary to be hit with a €2 million ($2.34 million) fine and a former CEO to be jailed during the trial over the company's alleged spy network used to monitor staff.

The Versailles prosecutor's office requested the fine, which is a little over half the maximum penalty allowed, yet is a tiny portion of the flat-pack furniture giant's €1.5 billion ($1.8 billion) profits in 2020.

IKEA France is alleged to have used a huge system of information, supported by police and private detectives, to illegally gather information on employees and job applicants.

The charges it faces, some of which carry a maximum jail term of 10 years, include illegally gathering personal information and violating professional confidentiality. 

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“What's at stake here is the protection of our private lives against a threat, the threat of mass surveillance,” prosecutor Paméla Tabardel told the court on Tuesday.

Earlier this month, a total of 15 people went on trial in Versailles outside Paris, while IKEA France was also prosecuted as a corporate entity.

The court is looking at the company's activities for three years from 2009, which were first revealed by the media and investigated in 2012.

However, prosecutors say the alleged spy network had been operating for almost 10 years before 2009.

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On Tuesday, Tabardel said Jean-Louis Baillot, Ikea France CEO from 1996 to 2009, should be given a three-year sentence, of which he should serve one year.

She also asked for the release of his successor Stefan Vanoverbeke due to a lack of evidence, and Claire Héry, a former HR director at the firm, due to insufficient evidence.

Baillot has denied the charges against him and is due to appear in court on Thursday.

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