independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Ikea 'used Cuban prisoners to make furniture'

Reuters

Cuban prisoners made furniture for Swedish retail giant Ikea under a 1980s deal to produce thousands of tables and sofas, according to German files.

The deal was struck in 1987 when representatives of Ikea Trading Berlin, an East German branch of the Swedish company, met with the head of Emiat, a Cuban company that furnished the homes of Havana's elite and holiday facilities for Western tourists.



Under the deal Emiat would produce of 45,000 tables and 4,000 "Falkenberg" three-piece suites.



Old East German foreign ministry files seen by the journalists from the German paper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung record production sites for the furniture were "incorporated in the prison facilities of the Interior Ministry" of Cuba.



The revelations come just a day after Swedish television made fresh allegations that forced East German prison labour was used at Ikea production plants in the old German Democratic Republic.



Ikea has requested Stasi secret police files in order to check the veracity of the accusations.



The Cuban deal got off to a bad start when the first delivery of sofas was rejected because the quality failed to reach the "quality standards of Ikea". This failure prompted East German officials to travel to Cuba in an attempt to improve quality because only then "could a direct shipment from Havana to Sweden be undertaken".



It remains unclear if the furniture was delivered or whether the deal floundered following the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and subsequent German reunification.



A spokesman for Ikea told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that the company had no knowledge of the Cuban deal.



The allegations will further embarrass the Swedish company that has already has its name tarnished by the East German allegations. Earlier in the week it issued a statement saying it took the allegations of forced labour "extremely seriously" and that if prison labour was used by Ikea suppliers then it was "totally unacceptable and extremely regrettable".



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