First Published: 2017-12-06

Lafarge ex-CEO quizzed over financing Syria jihadists
French cement-maker is accused of paying jihadist groups so that factory in Jalabiya, northern Syria, could continue to operate in war zone.
Middle East Online

Bruno Lafont.

PARIS - Former Lafarge CEO Bruno Lafont was questioned on Wednesday over allegations that the French cement-maker indirectly financed jihadists in Syria, sources close to the case said.

Lafont was questioned along with former human resources chief Eric Olsen and former deputy managing director for operations Christian Herrault, the sources said.

Lafarge is accused of paying the Islamic State group and other militants through a middleman so that the company's factory in Jalabiya, northern Syria, could continue to operate in a war zone.

Lafont headed Lafarge from 2006 to 2015, when the company merged with the Swiss building supplies company Holcim, before serving as co-chairman of LafargeHolcim until April this year.

Investigators are seeking to determine whether he was aware of millions of dollars paid to various armed groups including IS.

Three former officials at the Jalabiya factory were charged in the case last week.

Herrault told investigators early this year that "either you agreed to the racket or you left" Syria, adding that he had had "discussions" with Lafont.

The former CEO insisted that he believed "things were under control" and there was no reason to flee the war-torn country.

Lafarge's Syrian subsidiary Lafarge Cement Syria (LCS) paid out some $5.6 million (4.7 million euros) between July 2012 and September 2014, according to an April report commissioned by LafargeHolcim and seen by AFP.

LCS is also suspected of using fake consulting contracts to buy fuel from IS, which took control of most of Syria's strategic oil reserves in June 2013.

Frederic Jolibois, who took over as manager of the Jalabiya factory in 2014, was charged with financing terrorism, violating an EU embargo on Syrian oil and "endangering others' lives".

His predecessor as factory chief Bruno Pescheux and security boss Jean-Claude Veillard were also charged.

Jolibois has admitted to buying oil from "non-governmental organisations", notably Kurdish and Islamist groups, in violation of the EU embargo declared in 2011.

Pescheux has meanwhile admitted Lafarge paid up to $100,000 a month to Syrian tycoon Firas Tlass, a former minority shareholder who gave cash to armed factions in order to keep the factory open.

IS would have received around $20,000, Pescheux estimated.

Lafarge hung on in Syria for two years after most French companies had left as IS made major territorial gains.

 

Turkey warns Syria against protecting Kurds

Two hardline Syria rebels announce merger

IS kills 25 Iraqi militiamen near Kirkuk

Sudan frees dozens of activists detained after protests

Saudi Arabia to host first Arab Fashion Week

Somalia appoints new police, intelligence chiefs

Iran plane crash rescue search halted for second night

France reaffirms commitment to Iran nuclear deal

Abbas warms up to Moscow amid cold US-Palestinian ties

Israel strikes 'historic' gas contract with Egypt

Are Iranian satellite channels aiding regime change?

Israel pounds Gaza with air strikes after rocket attack

Iraq orders deportation of French jihadist

Pro-Assad militias to enter Syria's Afrin

Three Egyptian soldiers killed in Sinai

Israeli, US officials meet over gas row with Lebanon

Iran's supreme leader says progress needed on justice

Syria Kurds claim striking positions in Turkey

Netanyahu warns Iran, brandishes piece of metal

66 feared dead as plane crashes in Iranian mountains

Saudi women to open businesses without male permission

Netanyahu slams 'outrageous' Holocaust remark by Polish PM

Israeli air strikes kill 2 in Gaza

Six suffer breathing difficulties after Turkish shelling in Afrin

Russian mercenaries - a discrete weapon in Syria

Iran protests ban on wrestler who threw bout to avoid Israel

Fears of expanding Syrian war could trigger peace deal

Battle to free Mosul of IS 'intellectual terrorism'

Turkey frees Garman-Turk journalist after one year without charge

Turkey hands life sentences to 3 journalists for Gulen links

Turkey, US agree to ‘work together’ in Syria

Thousands protest corruption in Tel Aviv amid PM indictment call

Prominent jihadist commander killed by rival Syria rebels

300 Russians killed in Syria battle last week

Tillerson, Erdogan have ‘productive, open’ talk

Iran raises rates, freezes accounts in bid to shore up rial

Kremlin says five Russians killed in US Syria strikes

Oman FM in rare visit by Arab official to Jerusalem

Senior IS leader extradited to Iraq from Turkey

Strikes hit another hospital in Syria's Idlib

Churches snub Jerusalem reception over tax dispute with Israeli authorities

Tillerson says US never gave 'heavy arms' to Kurdish YPG

Captured foreign IS suspects claim innocence

Yemeni mother awaits death penalty for spying for UAE

Fuel shortage shuts down Gaza's only power plant