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Ikea investigates Stasi prisoner labour claims

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Ikea investigates Stasi prisoner labour claims
Photo: DPA
10:12 CEST+02:00
Swedish furniture giant Ikea is investigating claims that its factories used East German political prisoners for labour during the 1970s and 1980s.

The claims, which will be aired on Swedish public television's (SVT) Uppdrag Granskning programme on Wednesday, first emerged in a German television documentary aired on WDR in July 2011.

The world's largest furniture retailer said it had previously investigated the claims when they were aired on WDR and found no evidence to support them, according to an Ikea statement released on Friday.

But on Saturday the company said it had requested documents from the former East German secret police or Stasi archives and is “interviewing people at Ikea who were around back then,” according to Ikea's social and environmental manager Jeanette Skjelmose.

"So far there are no indications that we would have asked that prisoners be used in manufacturing or known about it," she told the Swedish news agency TT.

"What we're looking into now is whether it could have happened anyway, without our knowledge," she said.

The show claims there is evidence to support the allegation that political prisoners were used. A reporter for the show found documents supporting the claim in the Stasi files, according to a trailer for the show on SVT's website.

"After the German documentary, Ikea examined the issue to get a more complete picture of what happened. We have so far found no evidence to suggest that political prisoners were used in production," the firm wrote in its Friday statement.

Ikea claimed in its statement that it takes the issue seriously and stated that regular inspections were made of the firm's factories in the German Democratic Republic (GDR).

"We were clear in our demands then as we are now," the firm stated.

During the 1970s, Ikea developed a strong manufacturing presence in the GDR, establishing operations in 65 locations across the country to produce parts and furniture.

The 2011 WDR documentary detailed claims, citing Stasi documents, that Ikea had a thorough cooperation with the East German authorities.

The programme illustrated the example of one factory, where Ikea's popular Klippan sofa was produced, and which was located beside a prison in Waldheim.

A former prison chief told WDR that prison labour was an expected part of furniture production.

Ikea, an unlisted, family-owned company, is the world's largest furniture retailer, with sales of €25 billion in 2011 and 131,000 employees at the end of its last fiscal year in August 2011.

AFP/The Local/mw

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