The largest European manufacturer of building materials has admitted to the financing of ISIS
Jean-Claude Veillard, the former head of the security department of the French construction corporation LafargeHolcim, acknowledged that the company paid ISIS terrorists for the opportunity to work in Syria.
The scandal associated with the work of Lafarge in Syria and the financing of this company by ISIS, flared up in 2016, when the French newspaper Le Monde published the results of the investigation on the company's activities.
The article titled "Comment le cimentier Lafarge a travaillé avec l'Etat islamique en Syrie" (How Lafarge works with the Islamic State in Syria) came out on June 21, 2016 and provoked a big scandal. The material said that in the period from 2013 to 2014 the company paid taxes to the coffers of ISIS, which controls the territory on which the cement plant is located.
Lafarge is one of the world leaders in the production of cement and building materials. The company was founded in the first half of the XIX century in France, its headquarters is in Paris. It participated in the construction of the Suez Canal and was the supplier of materials at the largest construction sites in France and around the world. In the twentieth century, Lafarge became the largest cement supplier in the world, and at the beginning of this century absorbed several companies and in 2015 merged with the Swiss Holcim in a corporation named LafargeHolcim.
The management team of the construction giant has always been able to conclude beneficial deals with foreign partners. For example, Hillary Clinton, a former US presidential candidate, worked in the legal department of the American branch of Lafarge in the late 1980s, and in the early 1990s even was on the company's board of directors, as the American news resource Breitbart wrote.
Interaction with Clinton did not go unnoticed and ended with a series of scandals involving negotiations with the CIA, illegal arms shipments and even microcredits that allegedly were allegedly used to build housing in poor countries. According to the materials of journalistic investigations, limestone and cement are not the only sources of income for the French company.
In 2010, Lafarge opened a cement plant in the north of Syria, in the village of El-Jalabiya. This settlement in the province of Aleppo is so small that it is not even marked on Google maps. According to the 2004 census, there were only about 400 people living.
With the beginning of the Syrian Arab spring in 2011, the safe operation of the enterprise was in jeopardy, but the management decided to continue working in the region for as long as possible. In 2013, ISIS seized the surrounding area and began to monitor roads and entrances to the cement plant. The management of Lafarge also in this case did not close the business, but preferred to agree and pay the self-appointed masters of the region.
Monetary relations with terrorists - infrequently advertised (for obvious reasons), but it is quite standard practice of large business in the conditions of war. But, unlike their "colleagues" who got into similar situations, Lafarge chose not to pay large sums for the complete and one-time abandonment by the terrorists of the plant. Spending money on attracting private military companies to storm the facility the company also did not. Instead, businessmen preferred to pay taxes to the government of Islamists in exchange for the safety of workers and a free corridor for the transportation of raw materials.
Investors went on a deal with their conscience and paid terrorist organizations, with whom the government of France officially fights.
According to the information of the France 24 edition, in the transactions with terrorists Lafarge was assisted by the Syrian business tycoon Firas Tlas, the son of the former Minister of Defense of Syria, who was once closely associated with the then Syrian President Hafez Assad. Firas Tlas was the second in the list of the richest people in the country, during the civil war he stated that he supports the resignation of President Bashar Assad. His cousin Abdul Razzaq Tlas commanded one of the brigades of the militants of the terrorist organization "Free Syrian Army."
According to Le Monde, Lafarge paid about 4.5 million euros, including more than 400 thousand euros specifically for ISIS.
Consequences of the scandal
In October 2016, the Ministry of Economy and Finance of France filed a complaint about potential violations by LafargeHolcim, after which the National Financial Prosecutor's Office began its own investigation. The French NGO Sherpa, which filed a complaint about the same LafargeHolcim transactions with ISIS, also acceded to the charges.
At first, the company's office rejected all charges, but in 2017 it was forced to admit that "the local division of the company provided funds to third parties to enter into deals with armed groups, including those who are subject to official sanctions."
April 24, 2017 CEO LafargeHolcim Eric Olsen announced early resignation after the recognition of the concern allegations of transactions with terrorists. The company's net loss in 2017 amounted to 1.47 billion euros, whereas in 2016 the company received a profit of 1.8 billion euros.
The new head of the corporation Jan Jenisch believes that the "Syrian issue" did not create any financial risk for the company, he calls 2017 "excellent in terms of both sales and performance results." In addition, Jenisch aims to expand the company by acquiring new assets and enterprises. The money for these operations will be taken not from investors, but by saving money, which will be due to the reduction of the management and redistribution of costs, as well as the sale of the company's unnecessary assets.
The recent recognition of the former security chief of the corporation Jean-Claude Veillard can not be called sensational; it only confirms the materials of numerous journalistic investigations and official statements, but the fact that the French intelligence (and therefore the government) knew about cooperation with the militants, forcing us to look at the situation from a different angle. There is a possibility that in the future we are expecting new curious details about the interaction of large Western business structures with ISIS terrorists