They accused the company of “providing significant aid and resources” to the Islamic State and the al-Nusra Front. “She was motivated by greed and self-interest when she turned a blind eye to the horrors of terrorism,” says the prosecutor in the case, Breon Peace.
The French cement company Lafarge SA has pleaded guilty in front of a US court of having financed terrorist groups in Syria between 2010 and 2014 with the purpose of guaranteeing the operation of a subsidiary that had in that country, reported the US Department of Justice. (DOJ, for its acronym in English).
The statement took place this Tuesday in a federal court in Brooklyn (New York), which accused the company of “providing help and significant resources” to the Islamic State (IS) and al-Nusra Front, both designated as foreign terrorist organizations by the US. While no one has been charged in the case, the authorities emphasized that their investigation is ongoing.
Hours earlier, the Swiss multinational construction materials company Holcim, currently responsible for Lafarge, had reported a DOJ plea agreement . Under the terms, Lafarge will pay a financial penalty of 777,78 millions dollars for “conspiracy to provide material support to designated foreign terrorist organizations in Syria.”
In a statement issued by Holcim, the cement company accepts its responsibility for the actions of the “individual executives involved” and “deeply regrets” their conduct. She adds that she will continue to cooperate fully with the French authorities, but is prepared to defend herself against any legal action that she deems unjustified. For example, the company announced in May that it would appeal the indictment of the Paris Court of Appeal for “complicity in crimes against humanity”
” Greed and self-interest”
The DOJ estimates that Lafarge Cement Syria (LCS) paid the terrorist groups, through intermediaries, the equivalent of about 5,92 millions of dollars in fixed monthly installments as a “donation”. According to Le Monde, which in 2016 revealed the fraudulent deals, with this he sought the continuity of the production of his plant in Jalabiya, in the north of the country, inaugurated in 2010, one year before the protests which led to the Syrian civil war. This factory, the largest in the Middle East dedicated to the production of cement, involved an investment of close to 680 million dollars, and the French group did not want to abandon it and leave it in the hands of rebel organizations,
indicates the Parisian newspaper.
“In the midst of a civil war, Lafarge made the unthinkable decision to put money in the hands of IS, one of the most barbaric terrorist organizations on the planet, in order to continue selling cement (…) It was motivated by greed and self-interest when turned a blind eye to the horrors of terrorism, and knowingly conspired to fund those organizations,” says Breon Peace, US federal prosecutor in the case.
Peace stresses that this is an “unprecedented resolution”, since “a corporation has never been accused of providing material support and resources to terrorist organizations foreigners”. Likewise, he considers that Lafarge did not act only in exchange for a permit to keep the plant operational, but also to “obtain economic gain”. The DOJ estimates that LCS earned about 78,3 million dollars in revenue.
Holcim merged with Lafarge in 2015 to create a global concrete giant, originally called LafargeHolcim, a name that was replaced in 2021 by Holcim Group. With this change they wanted to get rid of several of the scandals. The DOJ recognized that the Swiss company was not involved in the crimes and that the executives involved hid their criminal actions before and after to acquire Lafarge SA. When Holcim learned of the allegations, he voluntarily undertook an extensive investigation which he disclosed in 2017.