Swedish furniture giant Ikea and two of its top executives are under formal investigation by French authorities after allegedly spying on employees at a local unit. (Photo: Reuters)
Swedish furniture giant Ikea and two of its top executives are under formal investigation (Reuters)

Swedish furniture giant Ikea and two of its top executives are under formal investigation by French authorities for allegedly spying on employees.

According to a court official in Versailles, Ikea France chief executive Stefan Vanoverbeke and chief financial officer Dariusz Rychert were questioned by police over allegedly getting its human resources department to secure illegal access to confidential police records of potential and current employees.

The official added that the two men were placed under investigation after 30 hours of police questioning alongside Vanoverbeke's predecessor, Jean-Louis Baillot.

The investigation is part of a long-running probe which started in April 2012 after an Ikea union claimed that the Swedish company was illegally snooping on employees by accessing police records.

The court of Versailles has jurisdiction over the town where the French Ikea unit is based.

Ikea has 29 stores and employs 9,500 people in France.

Confidential records are kept on all French residents who have had any dealings with the police and can be consulted only by police and prosecutors.

The records are kept regardless of whether the person has been convicted of a crime or not.

The court official declined to say whether any members of the police were under formal investigation.

The court also ordered Ikea to pay bail of €500,000.

Ikea spokeswoman Josefin Thorell said that the company had launched an internal investigation. "Methods of working [in France] go against our company's values and rules," said Thorell. "We have fully supported the investigation in France from the get-go."

Ikea fired four managers, including the head of security , a month after the investigation began.

Thorell said the two executives now under formal investigation have kept their jobs.

Vanoverbeke's lawyer, Alexis Gublin, said his client took all the necessary corrective measures when he learned about the alleged spying.

"He was not aware of it at the time," added Gublin.