Syria: LafargeHolcim recognizes that its factory has funded armed groups

Swiss construction materials giant LafargeHolcim admitted on Thursday (March 2nd) that it had made “unacceptable”arrangements to ensure the safety of a war-torn cement plant in Syria between 2012 and 2014.

The group acknowledges that the local subsidiary that was then owned by French Lafarge “has given funds to third parties to find arrangements with a number of these armed groups, including third parties subject to sanctions” , without being able to establish the recipients end. “In hindsight, the conditions required to ensure the continued operation of the plant were unacceptable,” concludes the internal investigation.

According to Le Monde , who revealed the case on June 21 , these arrangements benefited the Islamic State (IS) organization. Inaugurated in 2010, the Jalabiya cement plant in northeastern Syria was bought in 2007 by Frenchman Lafarge, who has since merged with Switzerland’s Holcim. But in 2011, the civil war broke out. The factory management sought to keep it running for as long as possible in a dangerous and unstable environment.

Negotiating rights of way

From 2013, the IS presence in the region forced the cement plant to negotiate rights of way at the checkpoints held by the jihadists for its trucks. It was also necessary to buy from oil traders, whose fields were held by the IS. For a little over a year, Lafarge indirectly financed the jihadist organization. Until the IS seized the site on September 19, 2014 and Lafarge ceased operations.

A pass bearing the stamp of the EI and approved by the Director of Finance of the wilaya (region) Aleppo to EI, dated 11 September 2014, has testified of agreements to allow free movement Lafarge materials on the roads controlled by the jihadist organization. Contacted by Le Monde , the Lafarge spokeswoman said: “There is a document presented as an IS pass. We do not confirm its authenticity.Our internal investigation will determine the nature of this document and how it emerged. “

“Errors of judgment”

As the civil war grew in the country, “the deterioration of the political situation in Syria has created very difficult challenges for security, factory operations and employees,” says LafargeHolcim. “This included threats to employee safety, as well as disruptions in the supplies needed to run the plant and distribute its products. “

“The operations in Syria seem to have acted in a way that they thought was in the best interest of the company and its employees.Nevertheless, the investigation reveals significant errors of judgment in contradiction with the code of conduct then in force “ , he adds.

Following the revelations of the World , several NGOs, then the Ministry of Economy, filed a complaint against the cement, accusing him in particular of financing of terrorism and to have violated the sanctions enacted by the European Union against the regime. from Bashar Al-Assad.