Over 50 civil society groups call on US justice department to allocate forfeited assets from Lafarge case to aid Syria atrocity victims News
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Over 50 civil society groups call on US justice department to allocate forfeited assets from Lafarge case to aid Syria atrocity victims

Over 50 civil society organizations urged the US Department of Justice (DOJ) in a Wednesday open letter to ensure that any forfeited assets from its landmark case against construction materials company Lafarge are directed to support victims and survivors of atrocity crimes associated with Syria. The letter expressed grave concerns that money from the case may not directly assist the victims of the industrial company’s actions and they urged Merrick Garland, US Attorney General, to ensure these funds go to those affected.

Lafarge S.A, a French building materials manufacturer and Lafarge Cement Syria S.A. (its subsidiary) pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide material support to foreign terrorist organizations in 2022, in the first corporate material support for terrorism prosecution. This was after the FBI and the DOJ brought criminal conspiracy charges against them for paying the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and the al-Nusrah Front’s (ANF) for permission to operate a cement plant in Northern Syria from 2010-2014, earning the company approximately $70.3 million. The DOJ uncovered payments including payments for raw materials, donations to armed groups and bribes for worked safety and market advantage. The payment structure Lafarge established with ISIS and ANF was based on revenue sharing. US District Judge William F. Kuntz II imposed terms of probation and financial penalties on the defendants, including criminal fines and forfeiture, totalling $777.78 million.

At the time of the judgment, Deputy Attorney General, Lisa O. Monaco, said:

The terrorism crimes to which Lafarge and its subsidiary have pleaded guilty are a vivid reminder of how corporate crime can intersect with national security…the defendants partnered with ISIS, one of the most brutal terrorist organizations the world has ever known, to enhance profits and increase market share — all while ISIS engaged in a notorious campaign of violence during the Syrian civil war.

The open letter spoke about the challenges faced by those who were affected by ISIS and ANF “grave violations of international law” and how they have no access to remedies within Syria, due to logistical hurdles, displacement and ongoing conflict. The amount offered by Lafarge in the plea agreement would be a potential source of support to those communities. They emphasised the need for those affected to have input in determining how the funds should be used and urged the Attorney General to allocate the forfeiture funds to victims and survivors, in accordance with US obligations under international law.