Oct 18, 2022 - World

French cement company to pay $780 million for supporting ISIS

logo of Lafarge SA sits on cement storage silos at the company's distribution center in Albi, France,

Photo: Balint Porneczi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A French cement company agreed to pay roughly $778 million in financial penalties after pleading guilty in U.S. federal court on Tuesday to paying off terrorist groups in Syria to keep a plant there operational.

Driving the news: The company, Lafarge, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to provide material support to ISIS and the Al-Nusra Front, the Justice Department said in a press release.

  • Lafarge and a subsidiary paid the terrorist groups nearly $6 million "at a time [when] those groups were brutalizing innocent civilians in Syria and actively plotting to harm Americans,” said Matthew Olsen, assistant attorney general for national security.
  • The company made the payments in 2013 and 2014, when ISIS was carrying out kidnappings, beheadings, and torture, as well as targeting journalists and aid workers.

Details: Executives at Lafarge bought cement production materials from ISIS-controlled suppliers, paid ISIS to impose extra costs on rival companies, and funneled monthly "donations" to both terror groups to ensure that employees and others could cross checkpoints in the area around the plant, per the DOJ.

  • Executives at Lafarge and its Syrian subsidiary also "actively concealed their scheme," prosecutors said, by omitting the company's name on written agreements and creating invoices with fake descriptions, among other things.
  • The penalty is the largest settlement paid by a private company for providing support to a terrorist organization, the New York Times reported.

What they're saying: The company said in a statement Tuesday that it has "accepted responsibility for the actions of the individual executives involved, whose behavior was in flagrant violation of Lafarge’s Code of Conduct."

  • "We deeply regret that this conduct occurred and have worked with the U.S. Department of Justice to resolve this matter," Lafarge said.
  • In the DOJ press release, U.S. Attorney Breon Peace for the Eastern District of New York said "Lafarge made the unthinkable choice to put money into the hands of ISIS, one of the world’s most barbaric terrorist organizations, so that it could continue selling cement."
  • "Never before has a corporation been charged with providing material support and resources to foreign terrorist organizations," Peace said.
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