AFP: Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi accused Swedish cosmetics firm Oriflame on Saturday of trying to harm Iran’s security after five of its employees were arrested amid allegations of espionage.
By Jay Deshmukh
TEHRAN (AFP) — Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi accused Swedish cosmetics firm Oriflame on Saturday of trying to harm Iran’s security after five of its employees were arrested amid allegations of espionage.
“Oriflame intended to fight the (Iranian) system. There are no economic reasons behind the company,” Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi was quoted by state television as telling reporters at the Imam Khomeini mausoleum in Tehran.
“We realised through the evidence that the arrogance (Western powers) and intelligence agencies sought to create security problems for the country through this company,” he said.
In Stockholm, an Oriflame representative said the firm is not involved in any political activities.
“We are a cosmetics company, we are selling direct. We are of course not involved in any political activities in the country (Iran). It is very very difficult to comment on” the accusations, chief financial officer Gabriel Bennet told AFP.
Iranian authorities on August 22 closed the Tehran office of the direct-sales cosmetics firm and arrested five of its employees amid allegations that it was running a pyramid scheme and was possibly backed by a spy agency.
One of those being held is a dual Swedish-Iranian national.
Oriflame says it has not yet received information as to why its office was shuttered and its employees detained.
“It’s very difficult to comment on this because we don’t know why our colleagues have been detained, we don’t know why the company has been shut down,” Bennet said.
“We are seeking a dialogue with the authorities but we need to know more about why we are in this situation before we can make any comments.
“We are doing our utmost to solve the situation in Iran and especially for our colleagues being detained,” he added.
Moslehi’s latest charge comes just days after he accused firms such as Oriflame of being backed by intelligence agencies.
“These companies operate with outside support and are not engaged in economic activities. They are under the guidance of spy agencies,” he said on Wednesday.
Bennet said last Monday Oriflame believed the closure and arrests may be linked to its business model.
He told AFP then that the firm’s business model was to “sell cosmetics and give 40,000 Iranians, mainly women, a possibility to earn money through direct sales.”
He dismissed any reference to Oriflame operating a pyramid scheme as “ridiculous.”
Earlier this week the Swedish foreign ministry quizzed Iran’s ambassador in Stockholm Rasoul Eslami over the shutdown and arrests.
Ministry officials also raised with Eslami the case of Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, a 43-year-old mother of two who has been sentenced to death by stoning by an Iranian court.
Human rights officials in the Iranian judiciary say Mohammadi-Ashtiani was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery in a case which also got her a 10-year jail term for participating in her husband’s murder.
Her sentence has been criticised by Western nations and human rights groups.
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told AFP earlier on Saturday that Tehran is yet to take a final decision on her stoning.
“In this case, implementation of the sentence has been stayed and is under review by the judiciary,” Mehmanparast said.