The Franco-Swiss cement giant LafargeHolcim on Thursday said its French predecessor company Lafarge SA has been put under formal investigation into allegations it funded armed militant groups in Syria to keep a plant open.
The Lafarge cement company, which merged with Switzerland’s Holcim in 2015, was indicted on Thursday for “complicity” in crimes against humanity.
The firm is accused of having financed jihadists in Syria, including the Islamic State group, which has directed and inspired multiple deadly attacks in Europe.
The indictment concerns the plants of a Lafarge Cement Syria (LCS), located in Jalabiya in the north of the war-torn nation, according to a LafargeHolcim statement issued on Thursday.
Lafarge SA is the majority shareholder in the Syrian subsidiary of LCS.
A panel of three judges is overseeing the investigation into accusations of “financing a terrorist enterprise” and “endangering the lives” of former employees.
The indictment decision is in line with Paris prosecutor’s office requisition, a judicial source told Agence France-Presse.
Lafarge SA is subject to a judicial control including a guarantee of €30 million (CHF 34.3 million).
The cement manufacturer said the indictment was "expected", as several of its former executives had already been indicted.
The company attributes the “breaches” in Syria to "unprecedented" violations of internal regulations by "a few people who left the group".
It will contest the allegations on this basis, saying they “do not fairly reflect Lafarge SA's responsibilities" in the matter.
Thursday’s decision comes after eight indictments of the cement company’s top managers, including ex-Chief Executive Officer Bruno Lafont, who oversaw the company from 2007 to 2015.
In its press release, the cement manufacturer confirmed that "unacceptable individual errors were committed in Syria until the site was evacuated in September 2014" and promised full cooperation with the authorities.