Paris Court Upholds ‘Crimes Against Humanity’ Charge Against Lafarge Over Payoffs to Daesh in Syria

© AFP 2022 / DELIL SOULEIMANA general view shows the Lafarge Cement Syria (LCS) cement plant in Jalabiya, some 30 kms from Ain Issa, in northern Syria, in February 19, 2018
A general view shows the Lafarge Cement Syria (LCS) cement plant in Jalabiya, some 30 kms from Ain Issa, in northern Syria, in February 19, 2018 - Sputnik International, 1920, 19.05.2022
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French authorities opened an inquiry into Lafarge’s activities in Syria in 2016 following media revelations that the multinational construction materials giant made financial agreements with Daesh (ISIS)* and other jihadist groups to allow its cement plant in the country to continue to operate. The scandal sparked a lengthy legal battle.
The Paris Appeals Court has upheld Lafarge’s "complicity in crimes against humanity" over payments made via intermediaries to Daesh and other terrorist groups in a precedent-setting ruling.
Lafarge previously acknowledged making payoffs worth over $13.7 million to keep its cement factory in northern Syria operating between 2012 and late 2014, while the Middle Eastern nation was overrun with al-Qaeda*, Daesh, and so-called "moderate rebel" militants, but rejected any complicity in these groups’ crimes.

The ruling is a major setback for the cement giant, CEO Bruno Lafont and seven other current and former executives, who could now face trial if a judge orders it. Officials could face up to 10 years in prison on the terrorism financing charge, with the punishment for abetting crimes against humanity unclear.

Wednesday’s ruling was not a final verdict, but a step in an ongoing investigation.
The company, now a subsidiary of Swiss construction colossus Holcim, previously had the complicity in crimes against humanity charges dropped in 2019. However, in late 2021, France’s highest court, the Cour de cassation, ordered the lower court to review its judgment, leading to Wednesday's decision.

Dozens of former employees of the plant launched the case against the company in 2017 with foreign rights groups’ assistance. Joseph Breham, a lawyer representing the employees, hailed Wednesday’s decision as “one more step against impunity for the worst crimes by economic players”.

“Today it’s no longer possible to hide behind the fig leaf of orchestrated ignorance”, Breham said.
Lafarge’s $715 million, state-of-the-art cement plant was completed in 2010, and situated in Jalabiya, northern Syria. The company abandoned the facility in September 2014 as Daesh approached, forcing Syrian employees to stay on until the last minute, while so-called "expat" employees were evacuated two years prior.
A fighter of Daesh holds an ISIL flag and a weapon on a street in the city of Mosul, Iraq, in this June 23, 2014. - Sputnik International, 1920, 04.08.2018
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The plant was later occupied by US forces, who turned it into a military base. The US withdrew in 2019 amid pressure from Turkey, which launched a military operation in the region. The area is now thought to be controlled by Turkish-backed forces hostile to the Damascus government.
Over one third of Syrian territory, including oil, gas, and food-rich areas in the country’s north and east, continue to be occupied by the US and its Kurdish militia allies, and by Turkey. Syrian President Bashar Assad has estimated that it could cost up to $400 billion to rebuild the country from the conflict. The United States and its European allies have added to the economic pain through crushing sanctions, preventing the import of everything from construction materials and food to medical supplies and medicine. The West has also threatened to sanction any country which does business with Damascus.
A crew member raises the Iranian flag at Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya 1, formerly named Grace 1, as it sits anchored after the Supreme Court of the British territory lifted its detention order, in the Strait of Gibraltar, Spain, August 18, 2019. - Sputnik International, 1920, 04.01.2022
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Last year, Russia, Iran, and China jointly called on the West to lift its economic blockade, and blasted the US and its allies for “weaponising food and medicine”. Russia and Iran have helped Syria on the food and fuel fronts by providing emergency wheat and oil supplies to the war-ravaged country.
* A terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.
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