Stasi: The Scandal

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A Swedish investigative news program airing this week reports that IKEA used political prisoners from East Germany as slave labor. / REUTERS

IKEA, the Swedish megastore whose knock-down furniture and housewares have made it the largest home furniture retailer in the world, used East German political prisoners as slave labor, a Swedish investigative news show is reporting.

According to the Telegraph, the news show, Mission: Investigate, has dug into the Stasi files and discovered that an IKEA factory in Waldheim, East Germany, used slave labor from a prison next door. The reports are in line with earlier reports   from the German television station, WDR, which found the company used slave labor to build sofas.

The Stasi files quoted IKEA’s founder, Ingvar Kamprad, as saying that he had “no official knowledge” that his factory had used slave labor, but that if it had, “in the opinion of Ikea it would be in society’s interests.” In a statement, the company said that it had no records of using slave labor in East Germany, but regretted if it had done so.

In 1942, Kamprad, then 16, had joined Sweden’s pro-fascist New Swedish Movement. He founded IKEA a year later. Upon opening the first IKEA in Israel in the 1990s, Kamprad called his membership in the movement “the greatest mistake of my life.”

Sweep to IKEA “used East German prisoners as forced labor”

U.S. authorities are investigating the former treasurer of Mexico’s Coahuila state, and are seeking to seize some $6.5 million in his assets, on suspicion of money laundering and involvement in organized crime.

The former treasurer, Hector Javier Villareal, served as treasurer under Humberto Moreira, who was governor of Coahuila from 2005 to 2011. During that time, the state’s debt more than tripled, topping $2.6 billion.

U.S. investigators suspect Villareal of using government money to invest in property in South Texas, and they are planning to seize some $20 million in commercial and residential real estate that he purchased.

Moreira, who was named chairman of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, was forced to step down over suspicions surrounding the sudden plunge in Coahuila’s state finances. Moreira is a close ally of Mexico’s leading presidential contender, Enrique Pena Nieto.

Villareal is under investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service and the Texas Attorney General’s office.  He is also wanted by Mexican authorities, who accuse him of falsifying documents to borrow $222 million in the state’s name, and then sending the money to family in the United States.

Sweep to DA, Feds in SA file claim to $6.5 million and a dozen high-dollar properties

More trouble for those with friends in high places . . .

The former chairman of South Korea’s Communications Commission, a mentor to President Lee Myung-bak, is under arrest, charged with influence peddling and taking bribes from a real estate developer.

The chairman, Choi See-joong, a former journalist, has admitted to accepting money from the developer, Picity Realty, but said he did not promise to influence government officials in exchange. Asked by reporters what he had spent the money on, Choi said, “I have no excuse.”

The arrest is the latest in a burgeoning scandal that is claiming close associates of President Lee.  In addition to Choi, investigators are planning to question Park Young-june, a former government vice minister, who is suspected of taking nearly $100,000 in bribes from Picity.

The allegations date back to 2005 to 2007, when Park worked in the Seoul metropolitan government under President Lee, then the city’s mayor.

Sweep to President’s Mentor Arrested for Bribery

Diana Jean Schemo

Diana Jean Schemo

Diana Jean Schemo is co-founding executive editor of 100Reporters and an award-winning former foreign, national and cultural correspondent for The New York Times and the Baltimore Sun.

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