French cement firm pleads guilty to funding Islamic State in US case, fined $778M
A French cement firm has pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to provide material support to two terrorist organizations, including the Islamic State.
A Justice Department release on Tuesday states that Lafarge S.A., located in Paris, and its subsidiary Lafarge Cement Syria S.A., located in Damascus, pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide support and resources to ISIS and the al-Nusrah Front (ANF), both of which the United States has designated as foreign terrorist organizations.
Court documents state that the firms planned to pay ISIS and ANF in exchange for permission to operate a cement plant in Syria from 2013 to 2014.
A federal judge sentenced Lafarge to pay $777.78 million in financial penalties and forfeiture.
Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in remarks announcing the guilty plea on Tuesday that this is the first time companies have pleaded guilty to supporting terrorist organizations.
“Today, we see that intersection in its starkest form. Many of our cases expose corporate greed and corruption. But this time, corporate criminals joined hands with terrorists instead of corrupt government officials,” Monaco said.
“In its pursuit of profits, Lafarge and its top executives not only broke the law — they helped finance a violent reign of terror that ISIS and al-Nusrah imposed on the people of Syria,” she continued.
Matthew Olsen, the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s National Security Division, said in the release that the companies routed almost $6 million to the organizations while they were “brutalizing” civilians in Syria and planning to attack Americans.
Monaco said many companies made the right choice to leave Syria after a civil war broke out in 2011 and ISIS and ANF took over a sizable amount of territory in the country in 2012. But Lafarge chose to go into business with the organizations, taking advantage of ISIS’s “iron grip” on Syria to stifle competition and increase its market share, she said.
The firm received $70 million in revenue as a result of the deal.
Monaco said Lafarge also hid its partnership through fake contracts, falsified invoices, corrupt intermediaries and off-system email accounts.
“Make no mistake: Lafarge and its leadership had every reason to know exactly with whom they were dealing — and they didn’t flinch,” she said. “Instead, Lafarge forged ahead, working with ISIS to keep operations open, undercut competitors, and maximize revenue.”
The Associated Press reported that French authorities filed preliminary charges against the firm in 2014, including financing a terrorist enterprise and complicity in crimes against humanity. A French court threw out the complicity in crimes against humanity charge but allowed other charges stemming from payments to armed forces in Syria to be considered.
France’s supreme court overturned that ruling and ordered a retrial last year.