US Slams Lafarge $778m Fine for Funding ISIS
The United States justice department in Brooklyn has fined Lafarge, a French cement company, with $778 million after pleading guilty to making payments to terrorists to retain its operations in Syria.
This is the first time a company pleaded guilty to charges of providing material support to a terrorist organisation.
Lafarge, became part of Swiss-listed Holcim in 2015. According to Reuters, the company admitted to the act at the federal court in Brooklyn, the United States and agreed to pay $778 million in forfeiture and fines, as part of the plea agreement.
Under the terms of the plea agreement with the justice department, Paris-based Lafarge pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to provide material support to designated foreign terrorist organisations between August 2013 and October 2014.
In a statement, Breon Peace, a U.S attorney, said Lafarge Cement Syria executives bought materials needed for their cement plant in the Jalabiyeh region of northern Syrian from ISIS-controlled suppliers, and paid monthly “donations” to ISIS and ANF, so that employees, customers and suppliers could cross checkpoints around the plant.
Peace said the company also paid Islamic State and al Nusra Front, through intermediaries, $5.92 million between 2013 and 2014 to allow employees, customers and suppliers to pass through checkpoints after civil conflict broke out in Syria.
“That allowed the company to earn $70 million in sales revenue from a plant it operated in northern Syria,” Peace added.
“Lafarge made a deal with the devil. This conduct by a western corporation was appalling and has no precedent or justification.”
The prosecutors further said Lafarge eventually evacuated the cement plant in September 2014, noting that, at that point, Islamic State took possession of the remaining cement and sold it for the equivalent of $3.21 million.
Appearing in court, Magali Anderson, Lafarge chairman, said from August 2013 until November 2014 former executives of the company “knowingly and willfully agreed to participate in a conspiracy to make and authorise payments intended for the benefit of various armed groups in Syria.”
Anderson said the individuals responsible had not been with the company since at least 2017. In a another statement, Holcim noted that 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.”
Meanwhile, Lafarge executives were said to have concealed the Syria activities from Holcim as well as external auditors. READ:Lafarge Africa Gets its Groove Back after SA Divestment
The settlement is the largest ever paid by a private company charged with providing material support to a terrorist group.
Without naming Holcim, Lisa Monaco, U.S. deputy attorney general, said the company that acquired Lafarge did not perform due diligence of the Syria operations.
She also said no Lafarge executives were charged in the United States, adding that French authorities have arrested some of the executives involved but did not provide names.
U.S. court records refer to six unnamed Lafarge executives. The firm, in a statement, apologised to the public for misconduct, adding that corrective measures are being taken.
“Lafarge SA and LCS have accepted responsibility for the actions of the individual executives involved, whose behaviour was in flagrant violation of Lafarge’s code of conduct,” Lafarge SA said in a statement.
“We deeply regret that this conduct occurred and have worked with the U.S. department of justice to resolve this matter.”
# US Slams Lafarge $778m Fine for Funding ISIS#