Ikea 'used Cuban prisoners to make furniture'
By Matthew Day
Friday May 04 2012
Cuban prisoners made furniture for Swedish retail giant Ikea under a
1980s deal to produce thousands of tables and sofas, according to German
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
– Matthew Day