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Final Oriflame employee imprisoned in Iran is released

By Andrew McDougall , 13-Jan-2011

Swedish cosmetics company Oriflame announced yesterday that Iranian authorities have released the fifth and final member of those detained in the country following allegations of illegal activity.

The firm’s Tehran office was originally shut down and the arrests made on August 22 last year, originally detaining five employees.

The fourth was released in November 2010, and at the time Oriflame spokesperson Patrik Linzenbold told Sveriges radio that the process was not fully resolved until all members were released.

Yesterday Linzenbold told AFP: "I can confirm to you that the last person was released in December."

Allegations of illegal activity

The Iran office was closed last year amid allegations that Oriflame was fighting the Iranian system and was possibly backed by a spy agency.

Iran’s intelligence Minister, Heydar Moslehi, came out days later claiming Oriflame were trying to harm Iran’s security, amid accusations there were fraudulent and illegal activity taking place.

"Oriflame intended to fight the system. There are no economic reasons behind the company," he was quoted by state television as telling reporters in Tehran.

Initially there were disputes over the closure, which followed Iran’s commerce and culture ministries’ decision to block its local internet site after branding it ‘illegal’.

Dislike for the business model

At that time, Gabriel Bennet, Oriflame’s CFO, defended his organisation’s practice stating it was not involved in any illegal activity, suggesting the reasons for the arrests and closure was down to the Iranian authorities’ dislike for Oriflame’s business model.

A Swedish-Iranian employee was charged with setting up a pyramid scheme and benefiting from illegal earnings from it, but was released at the start of Novemeber 2010.

The saga has prompted Oriflame to cease its activities in Iran, according to press reports from Swedish daily Dagens Industri.

It reports that Linzenbold has stated: "The conditions for us to continue our activities there don't exist."