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Thursday, February 15, 2024

French cement company pleads guilty to supporting Islamic State in Syria

French cement maker Lafarge pleaded guilty in U.S. court on Tuesday to a charge that it made payments to groups designated as terrorists by the United States, including Islamic State, so the company could keep operating in Syria.

French cement company Lafarge pleaded guilty in a U.S. court Tuesday to making payments to Islamic State and another terror group in order to keep a plant operating in Syria.

It agreed to pay $778 million as part of the plea agreement.

The court heard that between 2013 and 2014, Lafarge paid Islamic State and al Nusra Front, through intermediaries, more than $5 million to help keep one of its plants operational. The payments were made even as ISIS was a kidnapping and killing Westerners.

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“In the midst of a civil war, Lafarge made the unthinkable choice to put money into the hands of ISIS, one of the world’s most barbaric terrorist organizations, so that it could continue selling cement,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement.

“Never before has a corporation been charged with providing material support and resources to foreign terrorist organizations,” he added.

In a statement, the company said that “Lafarge SA and LCS [Lafarge Cement Syria] have accepted responsibility for the actions of the individual executives involved, whose behavior was in flagrant violation of Lafarge’s Code of Conduct.”

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While no individuals have been charged in the case, authorities stressed that their investigation is ongoing.

Lafarge — which was purchased by the Swiss company Holcim in 2015 — is also facing charges of complicity in crimes against humanity in Paris for keeping a factory open in Syria after conflict broke out in 2011. Lafarge said in a statement that it “continues to cooperate fully with the French authorities.”

From approximately May 2010 to September 2014, Lafarge, through LCS, operated a cement plant in the Jalabiyeh region of Northern Syria (the “Jalabiyeh Cement Plant”) that Lafarge had constructed at a cost of approximately $680 million.

After the start of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, Lafarge and LCS negotiated agreements to pay armed factions in the Civil War to protect LCS employees, to ensure continued operation of the Jalabiyeh Cement Plant, and to obtain an economic advantage over their competitors in the Syrian cement market.