A French appeals court has confirmed that the cement giant Lafarge must face charges of complicity in crimes against humanity over alleged payoffs to Islamic State group and other jihadist groups during Syria’s civil war, judicial sources told AFP on Wednesday.
Lafarge, now part of the Swiss building materials conglomerate Holcim, has acknowledged that it paid nearly 13 million euros ($13.7) to middlemen to keep its Syrian cement factory running in 2013 and 2014, long after other French firms had pulled out of the country.
The company contends that it had no responsiblity for the money winding up in the hands of terrorist groups, and in 2019 it won a court ruling that threw out the charge of complicity in crimes against humanity.
But that ruling was overturned by France’s supreme court, which ordered a retrial in September 2021, and the decision Wednesday means that a judge could order Lafarge and eight of its executives, including former CEO Bruno Lafont, to stand trial.
The appeals court sided with prosecutors who said Lafarge had “financed, via its subsidiaries, Islamic State operations with several millions of euros in full awareness of its activities.”
It also upheld charges of financing terrorism and endangering the lives of others for putting its Syrian employees at risk as IS insurgents took over large swaths of the country, forcing Lafarge to eventually abandon its cement plant in Jalabiya, near Aleppo, in September 2014.
The company had invested 680 million euros in the construction of the plant, which was completed in 2010 — just a year before the outbreak of the ongoing war that is estimated to have killed more than half a million people.
Lawyers for Lafarge declined to comment on the ruling when contacted by AFP. The case was launched in 2017 by former Lafarge Cement Syria (LCS) employees backed by NGOs.
Source: France 24