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28 Jun 2018

David Keohane, Financial Times

LafargeHolcim’s French unit under formal investigation over Syria activities

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LafargeHolcim's French unit has been placed under formal investigation in Paris over allegations the cement maker helped finance terrorism in Syria. Lafarge was charged by French judges on Thursday with endangering the lives of others, financing of terrorism and complicity in crimes against humanity, according to judicial sources. The charges are the latest developments in a scandal surrounding a Lafarge cement plant the company kept running as Syria descended into civil war during 2013 and 2014...
LafargeHoclimin said in a statement: "Whilst admitting that the system of supervision of its Syrian subsidiary did not allow the company to identify wrongdoings at the level of this subsidiary, which were the result of an unprecedented violation of internal regulations and compliance rules by a small group of individuals who have left the group, Lafarge SA will appeal against those charges which do not fairly represent the responsibilities of Lafarge SA." French authorities are investigating if Lafarge financed terrorism while sacrificing the safety of its workers by making alleged protection payments to militant groups, including Isis...
"This landmark decision must press Lafarge to face its responsibilities and open an independent compensation fund so that all former employees receive appropriate remedies," said the Paris-based Sherpa organisation, which supports victims of economic crimes and which filed a lawsuit against the company that helped lead to the investigation.The so-called 'Syria affair' has caused a public storm in France and has already seen several high ranking Lafarge executives placed under investigation, including the former chief executive of the company Bruno Lafont...A formal investigation means that prosecutors believe they have "serious or consistent evidence" that could result in prosecution, according to French law. The investigation can still be dropped.