Defense

EXCLUSIVE: Iran Is Peddling False Business Connections With The West

BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images

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Saagar Enjeti White House Correspondent

Iranian media outlets and government sanctioned businesses are peddling false affiliations and dealings with western businesses such as Toyota and Dupont, documents obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation reveal.

The fake dealings were uncovered by a U.S.-based advocacy organization, United Against Nuclear Iran, that is working to prevent the regime from obtaining nuclear weapons. The group sent letters to dozens of the western businesses supposedly doing business in Iran, and several responded to say the regime entities were blatantly lying, as they have no business whatsoever with the country.

In one case an Iranian English language newspaper claimed in July 30 story that Toyota is exporting cars to the country, citing claims from Iranian business IrToya’s marketing manager. “Irtoya, an importer of Toyota cars, is set to introduce three new models of Lexus and one new Toyota in the near future,” reads the July 30 story in Financial Tribune.

Financial Tribune Story, July 30, 2017

Toyota said the claim is completely false in a letter to UANI, after the group notified the company of the supposed dealings with the Islamic Republic. The company “has not initiated the export of motor vehicles to, or the manufacture of, motor vehicles in Iran,” Toyota Group Manager Prasanna Ganesh said in the letter obtained by TheDCNF and verified as authentic by Toyota spokeswoman Amanda Roark. Ganesh added that Toyota has no current plans to do business in the country.

Toyota Response

Iran promised its people a rush of business investment from western countries would result from the sanctions relief included in the 2015 nuclear deal the country struck with the United States and the other P5+1 powers. Iran celebrated the prospect of a flood of western investment to revive the country’s lagging economy, but investment has continued to lag, as European and U.S. countries are reluctant to do business with the regime.

The Obama administration believed Iran’s entry into the global marketplace as a result of the deal would normalize its malign behavior and dull its pursuit of nuclear weapons, after the terms of restrictions on the regime expire in 10-15 years. Iran, however, continues to aggressively pursue a ballistic missile program and the U.S. Department of State continues to characterize it as the number one state sponsor of terrorism.

A senior analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies told TheDCNF Iran is likely using the fake dealings to try to encourage other businesses to actually invest in the country. The regime likely wants to use the “name brand recognition of a western business entity” to “log roll that into some sort of success where they can ultimately say, hey look, credible commercial enterprises are doing business with the Islamic Republic of Iran, you should too,” analyst Behnam Ben Taleblu said.

Iran “covets the status that a lot of these western business enterprises have,” Taleblu added. “They’re basically using western brands to to destigmatize the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

A senior research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs at the Heritage Foundation, Jim Phillips, had a similar take. “It could be that these entities are trying to enhance their bargaining leverage by falsely claiming they already have relationships with or are developing them with other western business entities,” Phillips told TheDCNF.

Iran’s behavior in recent months comes as the Trump administration considers adopting a much tougher approach to the country than the previous administration. Reports indicate President Donald Trump will de-certify Iranian compliance with the nuclear deal during an October 12 speech, based on the regime’s pursuit of a ballistic missile program and other malign influence in the region.

Increasing discussion of Iran’s behavior outside of technical compliance with the deal may have prompted the regime to “fight” this stigma by creating lies of legitimate ties with western businesses, Taleblu added.

UANI CEO and former U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Mark Wallace, told TheDCNF in a statement: “Iran is trying to present its best face, a fictional one, portraying itself as a legitimate actor that’s going about business in an upstanding manner. But evidence shows that Iran is misappropriating companies’ good names in a dishonest effort to peddle the phony narrative that the regime in Tehran is ‘open for business.'”

“Companies should be aware of Iranian intellectual property theft and false or exaggerated reports of corporate deals in the Iranian press,” he added. “Whether it’s the constant deception surrounding Iran’s nuclear weapons program or the false assertions made in the business space, the world’s top state sponsor of terror is not to be trusted.”

The Financial Tribune also ran a June 21 story claiming that Iran’s Tejarat Bank was opening a branch in Norway.

Financial Tribune Story June 21

But Norway’s Financial Supervisory Authority told UANI the agency has not received any applications from Iranian financial institutions to establish branches in Norway: “As to the references in your letter to different media articles reporting on establishment of banking ties, the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Teheran has officially denied the information, saying it was ‘completely false.’ The statement from the Embassy clarified that no Iranian banks are opening branches in Norway.”

Finanstilsynet Letter

The Financial Tribune wrote a follow up story a week later clarifying that the report was false, ostensibly blaming the Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture website transcript of a meeting between Iranian and Norwegian officials.

Iran has also been holding business symposiums across Europe in a bid to encourage western entanglement and investment. Some of these symposiums, however, claimed partnership or attendance by companies that were not participating.

UANI reviewed one January Berlin based symposium titled the Iran Post Sanctions Business Forum which reportedly claimed participation by German engineering firm FLSmidth. A Senior Vice President of the company responded to a query from UANI saying “FLSmidth has not agreed to participate in the Iran Post Sanctions Business Forum.” The Senior Vice President confirmed the authenticity of his communications with TheDCNF.

Another particularly egregious case involves Iranian business Ervin Danesh Aryan Company, which was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Treasury in February 2017 for “providing, or attempting to provide, financial, material, technological, or other support for, or goods or services in support of” Iran’s ballistic missile program. The company website notes its expertise in electrical engineering.

The Ervin Danesh Aryan Company lists several western company logos on its website, implying a business relationship with them.

Screenshot/http://electrochem.ir/

Many of the business listed protested to UANI that their likenesses were blatantly misrepresented by the sanctioned firm, and said they had no connection with it whatsoever.

Mark Sagrans, Counsel for the Dupont company, told UANI their logo was “pirated” by the Iranian firm. “We can say with confidence that Dupont had exited all of its direct and indirect legally allowable business with Iran by 2005,” the company said, adding, “While the appearance of the DuPont logo on Ervin Danesh’s website might suggest that we have some kind of commercial ties with them, we simply do not.” Sagrans did not respond to a request for comment by press time to TheDCNF.

Screenshot from Letter from Counsel Mark Sagrans to UANI

Ervin Danesh pulled the same maneuver in its introductory paragraph claiming to be supplied by U.S. based multi-national corporation Thermo Scientific.

Ervin Danesh Intro Paragraph

ThermoFisher Scientific Global Trade Compliance Senior Director Barb Secor told UANI the totality of its relationship with  Ervin Danesh occurred when it contacted a Thermo Scientific subsidiary, but never received a response. “We have no knowledge that Ervin Danesh Aryan has any Thermo Scientific products,” she declared, adding that the company sent the firm a cease and desist letter to cease making false claims as to its relationship. Secor did not respond to a request for comment by press time to TheDCNF.

Thermo Scientific Letter

Dupont and ThermoFisher Scientific were just two of 12 companies which responded to UANI with denials of affiliation with Ervin Danesh.

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