A major international cement company will has pleaded guilty in Brooklyn Federal Court to giving financial support to ISIS, will forfeit $687 million and pay the U.S. government nearly $91 million in fines, prosecutors said.
France-based cement giant Lafarge built a $680 million factory in Syria, and after ISIS and the Al Nusrah Front took control of several territories during the the Syrian civil war, the company paid the terrorist groups millions in protection money to get employees and supplies to the plant safely.
The companies, Lafarge SA and Lafarge Cement Syria, or LCS, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to foreign terrorist organizations before Brooklyn Federal Court Judge William Kuntz on Tuesday morning.
“These are the first companies ever charged by the Justice Department with providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said. “Lafarge made a deal with the devil… and they did it for profit.”
Lafarge also went into business with ISIS-controlled suppliers, buying tons of raw cement and entering into a revenue sharing agreement. They leveraged their partnership with the terrorists to give them an advantage over their competition, prosecutors said.
The company’s workers even used what prosecutors referred to as a “ISIS vehicle pass” to get them through checkpoints.
“To the brothers at the checkpoints of Qarah Wawzak Bridge, may Allah keep you safe,” the pass reads. “Kindly allow the employees of Lafarge Cement Company to pass through after completing the necessary work and after paying their dues to us. May Allah reward you.”
“In 2012, as that country descended into civil war, ISIS and Al-Nusrah gained ground and gained control of territories. Now many companies made the right choice, the only lawful choice, to leave the region, rather than join hands with the terrorists,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said. “Lafarge made a different decision.”
From August 2013 through October 2014, Lafarge paid just under $6 million to ISIS, and made more than $70 million in sales revenue.
“Let me pause and let that sink in. 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, to wage war against government and conduct brutal terrorist attacks worldwide, including against U.S. citizens,” Peace said. “This conduct by a Western corporation was appalling.”
The cement plant, which was in Jalabiyeh, near the Turkish border, was attacked by ISIS fighters in 2014. The company evacuated, and ISIS seized the cement it found, selling it for $3.2 million, prosecutors said. The plant was used as a base by the U.S. military before the Trump Administration pulled out of Syria in 2019.
Lafarge was bought by its competition, Holcim, in 2015, and though its new owner didn’t participate in the scheme, it didn’t perform due diligence, and didn’t start investigating the partnership with ISIS, “until they were exposed publicly,” Monaco said.
Several executives responsible for the scheme have been arrested by French authorities, Peace said.
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