The cement giant LafargeHolcim is being investigated for terrorist financing. Lafarge’s subsidiary in Syria is suspected of paying roughly $5 million in protection money to armed groups in Syria in order to keep the Jalabiya cement plant open, with an estimated $500,000 paid to the Islamic State. The company also bought raw materials from individuals connected to ISIL or from individuals in ISIL-controlled territory, potentially further supporting the group in this manner. Lafarge also reportedly paid €220,000 to release staff kidnapped in 2012.
The funds are alleged to have been provided to rebel and terrorist groups through 54 bank accounts and an intermediary, but were ultimately delivered in cash. The payments were disguised as ‘donations’.
Eric Olsen, chief executive of LafargeHolcim until his resignation in April, has been charged, while Jacob Waerness was arrested by French police and later released. French judges have put 8 former Lafarge executives under investigation for terrorist financing and crimes against humanity. According to one article, none of the people arrested are currently part of the company.
Analysis: Taxes, kidnapping for ransom and extortion have been financing mainstays of a variety of terrorist groups operating in the Syria-Iraq conflict, including ISIL. Most companies that operate in or near territory controlled by terrorists will be required to pay some sort of protection money; most companies that operated in ISIL-controlled Iraq & Syria likely paid the group.