French manufacturing company must pay $778M in US plea deal for bribing terrorist organizations News
© WikiMedia (Guilhem Vellut)
French manufacturing company must pay $778M in US plea deal for bribing terrorist organizations

French building materials manufacturer Lafarge and its Syrian subsidiary Tuesday pleaded guilty in a New York federal court to conspiring to provide material in support of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and the al-Nusrah Front (ANF). Both ISIS and ANF are designated foreign terrorist organizations in the US. Lafarge must pay a total of $777.78 million in penalties and serve probation.

The US FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) brought criminal conspiracy charges against Lafarge based on a scheme in which Lafarge paid ISIS and ANF for permission to operate a cement plant in the Jalabiyeh region of Northern Syria from 2010 to 2014. As a result of plant operations, Lafarge obtained approximately $70.3 million in revenue. The DOJ discovered a series of payments between Lafarge, ANF and ISIS spanning raw material purchases, donations to armed groups and bribes to ensure worker safety and favorable treatment in the Syrian cement market. Over time, Lafarge established a payment structure which depended on the amount of cement they were able to sell – incentivizing ANF and ISIS to act in Lafarge’s economic interests.

US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Breon Peace said of the plea:

Today, Lafarge has admitted and taken responsibility for its staggering crime. Never before has a corporation been charged with providing material support and resources to foreign terrorist organizations. This unprecedented charge and resolution reflect the extraordinary crimes committed and demonstrates that corporations that take actions in contravention of our national security interests in violation of the law will be held to account.

The DOJ estimates that total gains from the Syrian cement operation totaled close to $80.54 million. On top of that, Lafarge executives concealed their payments to ISIS and ANF through the establishment of intermediaries, leaving their name off of payments and using personal channels of communication instead of official channels.

The FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force led the investigation against Lafarge. In the end, Lafarge and its Syrian subsidiary pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide material support to designated foreign terrorist organizations. In addition, both Lafarge and its subsidiary admitted to negotiating with and paying armed groups and terrorists, negotiating revenue-sharing agreements with ISIS to seek economic advantage and concealing their payments, falsified records and backdated contracts.

Similar dealings were uncovered during a 2017 internal investigation at Lafarge. At the time, the final report from the internal investigation concluded that Lafarge made the payments to overcome “unprecedented challenges to the operations” of the Syrian cement plant. The report read, in part: “Very simply, chaos reigned and it was the task of local management to ensure that the intermediaries did whatever was necessary to secure its supply chain and the free movement of its employees.”