WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Two Polish men have been arrested and charged with planting bombs at IKEA stores in several European countries and attempting to extort euro6 million ($8 million) from the Swedish retail giant, Polish police said Saturday.
The attacks, made with homemade bombs, occurred from May to September in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and the Czech Republic. Two people were injured in the German attack but there were no fatalities. Some of the bombs were potentially lethal, though not all detonated.
Andrzej Matejuk, police commander with the Central Bureau of Investigation, said Saturday that two Polish men, both 39-year-olds living in the northern Polish city of Gdynia, were arrested in the case.
After the last attack, in Prague, the men threatened more bombings unless IKEA paid them euro6 million ($8 million), Matejuk said at a news conference in Wroclaw.
"The perpetrators prepared for this very carefully. They set up a bank account, demanded a transfer over the Internet, but fortunately the ransom was never paid," Matejuk said.
IKEA spokeswoman Camilla Meiby said Saturday that the "detonations recently have developed into an extortion scheme, which we of course have taken very seriously."
She said IKEA was informed of the arrests by Polish police Saturday but did not want to comment further at this point.
"We continue to closely cooperate with the Polish police," Meiby told The Associated Press. "We cannot give more comments pending the ongoing police investigation."
Both men were charged with endangering the lives of many people, extortion and racketeering and could face up to 10 years in prison.
"Significant evidence was gathered on the men which clearly points to their guilt," Matejuk said.
They were only identified as Mikolaj G. and Adam K. Their full names were not given, in accordance with Polish laws that protect the identities of suspects.
However, Matejuk said that one of them has committed crimes in the past, including dealing in drugs. The other has a very different profile: a former manager of several companies who speaks four languages and had no criminal record.
Police spokesman Mariusz Sokolowski said the men were arrested after hundreds of Polish officers worked on the case along with counterparts in the countries where the attacks occurred.
"Because the bomb loads were getting stronger, there was a serious threat to the life and health of many people. Time counted," Sokolowski told the news agency PAP.
Last month, Europol said it believed the attacks were the work of a single man.