The verdict is in. Six months after a first indictment, the French cement manufacturer passed under the control of the Swiss Holcim, this time had to answer for its actions before a court.US federal court. Finally, theThe group pleaded guilty on Tuesday to charges related to payments to groups considered terrorist by the United States, including the Islamic State (IS), according to the transcript of the hearing.
The alleged facts took place between 2013 and 2014, when Lafarge had to keep its factory in Jalabiya, in northern Syria, in operation. A maintenance which was then monetized several million euros while the country was sinking into the war, between 4.8 and 10 million euros for the EI group alone, according to the investigation of the French authorities.
Lafarge will therefore pay a fine of 778 million dollars. Beyond the financial aspect, cThis acknowledgment of guilt is above all the first expressed by a company before the American courts concerning accusations of material support for a terrorist organization.
Already, in France last May, the group had been indicted for “complicity in crimes against humanity”for keeping a cement factory in operation after the outbreak of war in 2011.
Lafarge has always contested since 2017
An internal report commissioned by LafargeHolcim had highlighted remittances from Lafarge Cement Syria (LCS) to intermediaries to negotiate with “ armed groups “. But Lafarge SA has always disputed any responsibility for the destination of these payments to terrorist organizations. The judicial inquiry was opened in 2017. Lafarge has repeatedly asked for the cancellation of his charge of ” complicity in crimes against humanity”.
This time, across the Atlantic, the cement group has “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.
The United States Department of Justice acknowledged that the group had put in place appropriate screening procedures to now detect, and avoid, any conduct of this nature and therefore considered that it was “not not necessary to appoint an independent controller, said Lafarge for his part.
Magali Anderson, one of Holcim’s executive committee members, pointed out that several executives have “knowingly and voluntarily agreed to participate in a criminal association to make and authorize payments intended to benefit various armed groups in Syria”.
“The people responsible for these acts have left the company since at least 2017,” she said.
Lafarge is also suspected of selling cement from the factory to IS and paying intermediaries to source raw materials from jihadist factions.
On the Swiss Stock Exchange, the price of Holcim, the parent company, was temporarily suspended on Tuesday. 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.
(With Reuters and AFP)