U.S. Department of Justice statement confirms $778 million U.S. financial penalty imposed on Lafarge for aiding organizations “terrorists” in Syria.
The French cement group, which came under the leadership of the Swiss company Holcim, “accepted responsibility for the actions of the individual leaders involved, whose behavior was in clear violation of codes of conduct” internal, Lafarge said in a statement, adding “deeply regret” these acts.
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The United States Department of Justice acknowledged that the group had put in place appropriate control procedures to henceforth detect, and avoid, any conduct of this nature and therefore considered that it was not “not necessary” to appoint an independent monitor, said Lafarge. The group pleaded guilty in federal court in Brooklyn to a single count of conspiracy according to The New York Times. Lawyers for the group have argued in France that Lafarge’s efforts were not intended to support the Islamic State but to ensure that their activities could continue.
The group also notes that it continues to cooperate fully with the investigation by the French authorities on the same subject, but also says it is ready to “defend against any legal action that he considers unjustified”.
The company is charged in France for “complicity in crimes against humanity” regarding its activities in Syria.
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It is suspected of having paid in 2013 and 2014, through its Syrian subsidiary Lafarge Cement Syria (LCS), several million euros to terrorist groups, including the Islamic State (IS) group, as well as to intermediaries, in order to to maintain the activity of a cement factory in Syria in Jalabiya while the country was sinking into the war.
The investigation by the French authorities estimated that these payments could have reached between 4.8 and 10 million euros for the EI group alone.
The American daily newspaper The New York Times speaks of more than 5 million dollars.
Lafarge is also suspected of selling cement from the factory to IS and paying intermediaries to source raw materials from jihadist factions. The judicial investigation was opened in 2017. Lafarge has repeatedly asked for the cancellation of its indictment of “complicity in crimes against humanity”.
In a press release, the group declares that the instruction which triggered the procedure is now complete.
The share of Holcim, the parent company of Lafarge, was temporarily suspended from the Swiss Stock Exchange on October 18 after the publication of the first information on the agreement with the American Department of Justice. It moved higher after the resumption of trading, investors generally appreciate when a company closes legal proceedings.
Holcim had merged with Lafarge in 2015 to create a global concrete giant and was initially called LafargeHolcim. But the reputation-tarnished Lafarge name was dropped from the corporate name last year and reverted to simply Holcim.
Eric Olsen, from the ranks of Lafarge, had initially taken control of the group after its merger but had resigned in order to ease tensions on the file on Syria. He was replaced in 2017 by the German Jan Jenisch, the boss of the Swiss group Sika, highly respected in Switzerland, to restore confidence.