Secret police files reveal six-figure payments to Ceausescu’s henchmen, as retailer denies knowingly paying Securitate
Romania‘s brutal communist-era secret police received covert six-figure payments from Ikea as part of the Swedish group’s deals with a local furniture manufacturer in the 1980s, according to documents obtained by the Guardian.
Recently declassified files at the National College for Studying the Securitate Archives (CNSAS) in Bucharest suggest that the furniture firm agreed to be overcharged for products made in Romania. Some of the overpayments were deposited in an account controlled by the Securitate, the secret police agency.
The documents suggest Ikea was complicit in the arrangement. Ikea denies complicity, but has launched an internal investigation into the matter. It says it was unaware of the Securitate’s involvement in its commercial operations.
The revelations will nonetheless raise new questions about Ikea’s operations during the cold war, when it also used East German political prisoners to build its products. Ikea was one of a small number of western companies that took advantage of the increasing openness for business of several eastern bloc countries during the 1980s. It was particularly attracted to the prodigious timber resources and cheap labour offered by a country such as Romania.
It made a deal with a Romanian state-run timber company, Tehnoforestexport, in 1981 which by the middle of that decade was worth about £10m a year. According to the documents, the Securitate used a special foreign trade company called ICE Dunarea to skim money from the deals.