Human rights lawyers said on Tuesday that French cement group Lafarge paid close to 13 million euros ($15.2 million) to armed groups including ISIS terrorists to keep operating in Syria from 2011-2015, according to Reuters.
They were speaking at a news conference on the course of French prosecutors’ preliminary inquiry into Lafarge’s operations launched in June on suspicion of “financing of a terrorist enterprise”.
The lawyers for rights group Sherpa said a large part of the money went directly or indirectly into the pockets of ISIS and that payments lasted until well after the closure of Lafarge’s Jalabiya plant in September 2014.
They were citing a figure pinpointed by prosecutors examining Lafarge’s activities in Syria, in the throes of civil war since 2011, and drawn from an internal report by US law firm Baker and McKenzie for Lafarge.
“As part of the inquiry, the precise figure retained is 12,946,000 euros paid by Lafarge between 2011 and 2015 to terrorist organizations, including ISIS,” Sherpa lawyer Marie Dose said.
Lafarge became LafargeHolcim, the world’s largest cement maker, in 2015 after a takeover by Swiss Holcim.
Former LafargeHolcim CEO Eric Olsen resigned in April after the company admitted it had paid armed groups to keep a factory operating in Syria. His lawyer has said Olsen will appeal against being put under investigation.
Sherpa and other human rights groups in France as well as the French Finance Ministry have filed suit against Lafarge.
Sherpa wants the company to be placed under formal criminal investigation, like Olsen, and also accuses Lafarge of not cooperating with authorities and trying to hide important elements from the investigation.