IKEA, the Swedish retail giant, used political prisoners in East Germany as "slave labour" to make furniture, secret police files appear to show.
Ikea developed strong links with the communist state in the 1970s, opening a number of manufacturing facilities, including one which used political prisoners to construct sofas, according to Stasi records unearthed by WDR, the German television company.
The factory in Waldheim stood next to a prison and inmates were used as unpaid labour, it is claimed.
Jails in the German Democratic Republic housed significant numbers of political prisoners, with some estimates indicating they made up at least 20pc of the entire prison population. Quoted in a Stasi file, Ingvar Kamprad, Ikea's founder, said while he had no official knowledge of the use of prison labour, if it did exist "in the opinion of Ikea, it would be in society's interests".
Hans Otto Klare, who had been sent to Waldheim prison for trying to escape to West Germany, described conditions in the factory.
"Our labour team lived on the upper floor of the factory with the windows covered," he told WDR about his time making pieces for Ikea furniture.
"The machines were on the lower floor, and you had little rest. On the factory floor you had no proper seating, no ear protection, no gloves. Conditions were even more primitive there than in the rest of the German Democratic Republic. It was slave labour."
Another former prisoner said he recognised some of the parts he had made when he went shopping in Ikea after the fall of communism.
In the documentary, Sabine Nold, an Ikea spokesman, made no comment on the revelations but pointed out business practices had changed over the past 25 years. An Ikea statement issued later said the company had no knowledge of the use of prison labour, but was sorry if it had occurred. (© Daily Telegraph, London)