French Firm Reportedly Paid ISIS to Do Business in Syria
French firm Lafarge allegedly tried to keep a cement factory in Syria open at any cost despite the war raging in the country, directly paying jihadist groups with the agreement of the firm's headquarters in Paris, according to an investigation by French daily Le Monde.
Le Monde reported this week that it had seen letters sent by Lafarge managers in Syria "revealing arrangements that Lafarge made with the jihadist group to continue production until September 19, 2014," in a cement factory that Lafarge bought in 2007 some 150 kilometers (95 miles) northeast of Aleppo. The Jalabiya cement works went into operation in 2011. Until 2014, production kept up despite the growing instability in the region due to the civil war which began in 2011, the French daily wrote.
In one case Lafarge—seeking access to its factory for workers and supplies—sent a man named Ahmad Jaloudi on a mission "to get permission from ISIS to let employees past checkpoints." According to Le Monde, the letters, released by Syrian opposition website Zaman Al-Wasl, show that Lafarge's Paris headquarters was aware of the arrangements.
Furthermore, a "pass stamped with an ISIS stamp and endorsed by the (group's) finance chief in the Aleppo region" showed the company had struck a deal with the Islamic State group to allow for free circulation of its goods, the newspaper reported. In order to keep making cement, Lafarge bought licences from and paid taxes to ISIS middle-men and oil traders, the newspaper alleged. In 2014, ISIS completely took over the site, until Kurdish forces, backed by a U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, won back the factory in Feb. 2015.
Lafarge—which in 2015 merged with Swiss cement maker Holcim—did not respond to queries from AFP over the allegations, but did confirm it had owned the Jalabiya cement works "between 2010 and 2014." In 2013, the same Syrian opposition website released emails suggesting financial collaboration between the cement maker and the jihadist group, with the French company allegedly buying oil products from the Islamic State group for its Jalabiya factory.