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.
“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.