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Ikea blasts linked to extortion scheme

Officials at Swedish retail giant Ikea have confirmed that the company is the target of a blackmail attempt following a string of blasts and other incidents at Ikea outlets throughout Europe.

Ikea blasts linked to extortion scheme

“What I can say is that the situation has recently developed into an extortion attempt,” Ikea spokesperson Ylva Magnusson told The Local.

Magnusson explained that Europol, as well as other law enforcement agencies in several European countries, have been investigating a series of incidents targeting Ikea stores across Europe.

In May, explosions at three Ikea stores in the Netherlands, Belgium and France forced the stores to be evacuated and prompting a probe into what police believed may have been a coordinated attack.

And in June a blast in the kitchen equipment department of an Ikea store in Dresden, Germany, reportedly left two customers in need of hospital treatment.

More recently, two Ikea stores in the Czech capital Prague in early September were evacuated when a booby-trapped device was found in a waste bin at one of the stores.

And on Monday, September 12th, an Ikea store near Bergen in Norway was evacuated following a bomb threat made by telephone.

Magnusson was reluctant to divulge any information about what specifically led investigators to conclude that Ikea was being targeted in an extortion racket.

While no Ikea stores in Sweden have been struck in the recent string of incidents, Magnusson said the furniture retailer had nevertheless beefed up security at Swedish Ikea stores as a “precautionary measure”.

“We want our customers and employees to feel safe in our stores,” she said.

“Security is very important to us.”

Previous media reports have claimed that German police were probing the theory that the blasts may have been aimed at Ikea’s 85-year-old founder Ingvar Kamprad over well-known Nazi sympathies in his youth.

However, Magnusson refused to discuss speculation about what may be behind the blackmail attempt, or go into details about specific demands.

“We’ve been instructed by police not to release any details that could jeopardise their investigation,” she said.

Magnusson also wasn’t able to confirm which countries were actively involved in the ongoing probe and whether or not investigators had concluded that the recent incidents were all a part of a single coordinated extortion attempt.

“I’m not sure about the possible connections. That’s something the police are still investigating,” she said.

Earlier in September, Europol issued an appeal to the public for information on suspected perpetrator of the May blasts in the Netherlands and Belgium.

The suspect, who is thought to be the same for each attack, is believed to have placed improvised explosive devices inside the Ikea stores before exiting.

The suspect has been filmed by surveillance cameras and two witnesses have also described the offender escaping, according to Europol, which has said it is supporting cases under investigation in Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

The Local has sought comment on the investigation from Europol.

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IKEA

Ikea will buy back your used furniture at up to half the price

In the run-up to what would in normal times be the festive season sales rush, Ikea has vowed to buy back used furniture from customers to resell – and pay up to 50 percent of the original price.

Ikea will buy back your used furniture at up to half the price
Got any pieces of Ikea furniture at home? You may be able to get rid of it and get money back. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Ikea, the world's largest furniture chain, said Tuesday it would begin buying back used furniture from customers to resell – and pay up to 50 percent of the original price.

The “Buy Back Friday” scheme, timed to coincide with the “Black Friday” pre-Christmas retail frenzy, will run from November 24th and until December 3rd in 27 countries.

“Rather than buy things you don't need this Black Friday, we want to help customers give their furniture a second life instead of making an impulse buy,” said Stefan Vanoverbeke, deputy retail operations manager at Ingka Group, Ikea's parent company.

To address concerns its affordable, flat-pack products encourage overconsumption and waste, the Swedish company had previously said it would start renting and recycling furniture as part of an eco-drive.

Under its buyback scheme, the group said that “anything that can't be resold will be recycled or donated to community projects to help those most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic”.

“Some countries like Australia and Canada for example are currently testing different buyback services, but BuyBack Friday will be the first time that 27 countries do this together,” the statement added.

The Swedish giant employs over 217,000 people and has more than 50 outlets. Its annual turnover is around 40 billion euros ($46 billion).

The group did not specify how it would determine the price paid for second-hand furniture and customers will receive a voucher, not cash, for their products.  

As part of efforts to reduce waste, Ikea has already begun repairing and re-packaging products in every store that have been damaged in transit, as well as allowing customers to return products – including furniture – for resale or donation to charities.

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