Swedish furniture giant IKEA said Friday it was sacking four current and former managers at its French subsidiary over allegations they used illegal police files to spy on staff and customers.

"/> Swedish furniture giant IKEA said Friday it was sacking four current and former managers at its French subsidiary over allegations they used illegal police files to spy on staff and customers.

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CRIME

IKEA bosses sacked over spying scandal

Swedish furniture giant IKEA said Friday it was sacking four current and former managers at its French subsidiary over allegations they used illegal police files to spy on staff and customers.

IKEA bosses sacked over spying scandal

French prosecutors in April launched a criminal probe following allegations that IKEA paid for illegal access to secret police files to gain information about employees, clients and even people who came near its property.

In a statement, IKEA said it was firing a former managing director, a former human resources director, a former financial director and the current risk management director. The IKEA France workers were not named.

The firings are because of "practices against values and ethical standards that have unfortunately been noted within IKEA France," the statement added.

IKEA said it "continues to provide its complete support to the judiciary" and has taken measures to prevent a repeat of the alleged crimes.

When the scandal first came to light, IKEA France suspended three managers: former managing director Jean-Louis Baillot, risk management head Jean-Francois Paris and former human resources manager Claire Hery.

In interviews with online newspaper La Tribune, Baillot and Hery both denied any knowledge of spying at IKEA.

Satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine broke the story in February by publishing what it said were emails between Paris and Yann Messian of security company Sûreté International about getting access to police STIC files.

The controversial STIC file system has been criticised for being an unreliable database of millions of names and personal information about crime perpetrators, victims and even witnesses.

The newspaper said that Sûreté International offered access to the files for 80 euros (about $100) a time, as well as to a database of vehicle owners. 

The report quoted emails requesting information on employees, including union members, the owners of certain car registrations and the names associated with a list of mobile phone numbers.

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

Former management at Sûreté International, which was wound up in 2011, have denied responsibility, instead blaming a disgruntled former employee.

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CRIME

Top French central banker in corruption probe

French prosecutors said Friday that they had opened a corruption investigation into top central banker Sylvie Goulard, who simultaneously stepped down from the Bank of France.

Top French central banker in corruption probe

The probe covers suspicions of accepting bribes, influence peddling, illegal conflicts of interest and breach of trust, the national financial prosecutor’s office said, confirming a report from daily Liberation.

Graft-fighting group Anticor triggered the probe by filing a criminal report in June, with the investigation launched in September.

In a statement, the Bank of France said Goulard – a former MEP and briefly defence minister under President Emmanuel Macron in 2017 – would be leaving her post as one of the institution’s deputy governors on December 5.

Returning to the foreign ministry?

She wished to “return to the foreign ministry” where she started her civil service career, the bank said.

A source close to Goulard told AFP that her departure had “nothing to do with the investigation”.

“Neither Sylvie Goulard nor her lawyer were informed that the investigation had been reopened,” the source said.

A previous probe in 2019 was closed the following year after no crime was found, case files seen by AFP showed.

Anticor questioned in its complaint the work Goulard performed for the California-based Berggruen Institute think-tank.

She has acknowledged accepting 10,000 euros ($10,530 at current rates) per month working as a “special adviser” to the Council for the Future of Europe, an offshoot of Berggruen, between 2013 and 2016.

Goulard’s explanation

Goulard, who was also an MEP at the time, said her work had “no relation of any kind with the business activities” of the group’s founder, German-American billionaire Nicolas Berggruen.

She said her role included “reflection, moderating groups, organizing meetings”.

Her lawyer declined to respond Friday when contacted by AFP.

The Berggruen Institute denied in 2019 that Goulard had been given a fake job, highlighting that she organised meetings in Brussels, Paris and Madrid.

Goulard has also been charged in a probe into suspected fake jobs among assistants to MEPs from the Democratic Movement, a small centrist party that supports Macron.

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