Prosecutors on Tuesday asked for the French branch of Ikea to be fined two million euros ($2.35 million) for spying on hundreds of its employees, at a trial involving several former senior executives.
The prosecutors also called for a prison term for a former CEO for his role in an alleged elaborate system run by the Swedish flatpack furniture giant’s French subsidiary to illegally keep tabs on staff and job applicants using private detectives and police officers.
The requested fine is just over half the maximum sum allowed under French law and represents a fraction of the group’s annual profits, which totalled 1.5 billion euros (1.8 billion dollars) last year.
Ikea France is being prosecuted as a corporate entity along with several of its former executives in Versailles, southwest of Paris.
The charges include illegally gathering personal information, receiving illegally gathered personal information, and violating professional confidentiality, some of which carry a maximum prison term of 10 years.
Prosecutors say Ikea France collected details on hundreds of existing and prospective staff, including confidential information about criminal records.
“What’s at stake here is the protection of our private lives against a threat, the threat of mass surveillance,” prosecutor Pamela Tabardel said on Tuesday.
She said she hoped the court would send a “strong message” to companies everywhere.
The court is investigating Ikea’s practices between 2009 and 2012, but prosecutors say they started nearly a decade earlier.
Last week, the former chief executive of Ikea’s French operations, Jean-Louis Baillot, denied any role in the alleged scheme.
But the prosecutor asked the court to hand him a three-year prison sentence of which she said he should serve one.