French cement firm admits Islamic State group payments

NEW YORK (AP) — French cement corporate Lafarge pleaded to blame Tuesday to paying thousands and thousands of greenbacks to the Islamic State group in change for permission to stay open a plant in Syria, a case the Justice Department described as the primary of its type. The corporate additionally agreed to consequences totaling kind of $778 million.

Prosecutors accused Lafarge of turning a blind eye to the behavior of the militant group, making payments to it in 2013 and 2014 because it occupied a wide swath of Syria and as a few of its participants had been occupied with torturing or beheading abducted Westerners. The corporate’s movements happened sooner than it merged with Swiss corporate Holcim to shape the sector’s greatest cement maker.

The payments had been designed to make sure the ongoing operations of a kind of $680 million plant that prosecutors say Lafarge had built in 2011 originally of the Syrian civil conflict. The cash used to be for use to offer protection to staff and to stay a aggressive edge.

“The defendants routed nearly six million dollars in illicit payments to two of the world’s most notorious terrorist organizations — ISIS and al-Nusrah Front in Syria — at a time those groups were brutalizing innocent civilians in Syria and actively plotting to harm Americans,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen, the Justice Department’s most sensible nationwide safety reputable, mentioned in a remark.

“There is simply no justification for a multi-national corporation authorizing payments to designated terrorist organizations,” he added.

The fees had been introduced by way of federal prosecutors in New York City and by way of senior Justice Department leaders from Washington. The Justice Department described it as the primary example during which an organization has pleaded to blame to conspiring to offer subject matter enhance to a international 15 May Organization.

The allegations contain behavior that used to be previous investigated by way of government in France. Lafarge had in the past said funneling cash to Syrian armed organizations in 2013 and 2014 to ensure secure passage for staff and provide its plant.

In 2014, the corporate used to be passed initial fees together with financing a terrorist undertaking and complicity in crimes towards humanity.

A French courtroom later quashed the fees involving crimes towards humanity however mentioned different fees could be regarded as over payments made to military in Syria. That ruling used to be later overturned by way of France’s perfect courtroom, which ordered a retrial in September 2021.

The wrongdoing precedes Lafarge’s merger with Holcim in 2015.

In a remark, Holcim mentioned that after it discovered of the allegations from the inside track media in 2016, it voluntarily carried out an investigation and disclosed the findings publicly. It fired the previous Lafarge executives who had been concerned within the payments.

“None of the conduct involved Holcim, which has never operated in Syria, or any Lafarge operations or employees in the United States, and it is in stark contrast with everything that Holcim stands for,” the company said. “The DOJ noted that former Lafarge SA and LCS executives involved in the conduct concealed it from Holcim before and after Holcim acquired Lafarge SA, as well as from external auditors.”

The Islamic State group is abbreviated as IS and has been known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

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Tucker reported from Washington.

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