LafargeHolcim probed over Syria payments

20 March 2017

Swiss-listed cement firm LafargeHolcim has been asked to divulge any relationship it has had with militant groups in Syria.

The move follows recent allegations that senior executives at the firm’s Jalabiya plant, in Syria’s north-east, agreed to pay protection money to potential terrorist organisations.

The plant was acquired in 2007 by Lafarge (which merged with Swiss group Holcim in 2015).

An inquiry into Lafarge’s dealings in the country has been opened by prosecutors in Paris, and French human rights groups have filed a lawsuit, alleging the firm had “business relations” with Isis.

While already admitting that “significant errors of judgement” were made at the plant, which was evacuated in 2014, the firm recently told the UK’s Financial Times newspaper that “the full facts” about payments will be laid out in a report that will follow its ongoing internal investigation.

In a statement made last month, LafargeHolcim said, “The local company provided funds to third parties to work out arrangements with a number of…armed groups, including sanctioned parties, in order to maintain operations and ensure safe passage of employees and supplies to and from the plant”.

Questions that prosecutors will want answered by the firm include whether or not it broke sanctions by making payments at regime-controlled checkpoints.

Humanitarian groups will want to know whether the firm prioritised profits over the safety of its staff, and whether workers were evacuated, as LafargeHolcim maintains, or they in fact fled when the situation became life threatening.

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