New York, October 19 (SocialNews.XYZ) French cement maker Lafarge has pleaded guilty in the United States to supporting Islamic State (IS) and other terrorist groups, a news outlet reported.
The Paris-based company has accepted a $777.8 million fine for payments it made to keep a factory running in Syria after the outbreak of war in 2011, reports the BBC.
Prosecutors said it was the first time a company has pleaded guilty in the United States to aiding terrorists.
Lafarge said it “deeply regrets” the events and “accepts responsibility for the individual executives involved”.
The cement maker, which was acquired by Switzerland’s Holcim in 2015, said its behavior was in “flagrant violation” of Lafarge’s code of conduct.
The company opened its factory in Jalabiya near the Turkish border in 2010 after an investment of $680 million.
U.S. prosecutors say Lafarge’s Syrian subsidiary paid ISIS and another terror group, the Al-Nusra Front, the equivalent of $5.92 million to protect factory workers as the civil war in the country was intensifying. The executives likened the arrangements to paying “taxes”, the BBC reported.
The cement company ended up evacuating the factory in September 2014, when IS took control of the city and the factory.
But before he left, the deals helped the company make sales of $70.3 million, prosecutors said.
Lafarge had previously admitted that bribes had been paid after an internal investigation.
But U.S. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said Tuesday that the company’s actions “reflect corporate crime that has reached a new low and a very dark place.”
“Business with terrorists cannot be business as usual,” the BBC quoted Monaco as saying.
In a statement, Lafarge’s new owner, Holcim, said none of the acts involved the multinational, “which has never operated in Syria.”
He added that former Lafarge executives involved in corruption hid it from Holcim, as well as from external auditors.
Eric Olsen, who was CEO between 2015 and 2017, resigned following an investigation into Lafarge’s activities in Syria.
Leaders had tried to demand that ISIS not include the name “Lafarge” on documents commemorating and implementing their agreements and many of those involved in the scheme also used personal email addresses, rather than their work email addresses, to carry out the plot, the Department said, The BBC reported.
Lafarge executives also backdated the termination agreement to August 18, 2014, a date shortly after the UN Security Council issued a resolution calling on member states to ban doing business with the Islamic State, to falsely suggest that negotiations with the Islamic State did not take place after the UN resolution, the Department said.
Lafarge’s transactions were finally made public in 2016 on a website run by a Syrian opposition group.
Breon Peace, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, where the case was brought, said the conduct “by a Western corporation was appalling and had no precedent or justification.”
“The defendants paid millions of dollars (to ISIS), a terrorist group that otherwise operated on a shoestring budget, millions of dollars that (ISIS) could use to recruit members, wage war on governments and carry out brutal terrorist attacks around the world, including against American citizens,” he said Tuesday at a news conference announcing the guilty plea.
Lafarge also faces charges of complicity in crimes against humanity in France for its activities in Syria, but the company denies these allegations.