U no search took place this Tuesday, November 14, at the paris headquarters of Lafarge, who is suspected to have indirectly funded groups jihadists in Syria, including islamic State, while the holding company of the billionaire belgian Albert Frère, a shareholder in the cement, has also been described in Belgium.
“The French investigators are still trying to enter our premises”, indicated to the AFP by the end of the day a spokesperson for Lafarge, which was merged in 2015 with the swiss Holcim. At the same time, a search was held at the headquarters of Groupe Bruxelles Lambert (GBL), the holding company of the billionaire belgian Albert Frère which owns 9.4% of the capital of LafargeHolcim. GBL has confirmed in a press release have been the subject of investigations, pointing to “cooperate fully” with the justice in this case.
“The investigators are looking into whether Groupe Bruxelles Lambert would have been aware of the conduct of the cement companies in Syria”, according to the source close to the investigation. Abused on the Paris stock Exchange in the wake of this information, the title LafargeHolcim has closed down 1.95%. The investigations, carried out in France since June by three other judges, seek to determine whether Lafarge has sent money to some groups, notably the ARS, to continue to operate in 2013 and 2014, despite the conflict, the cement plant Jalabiya (north of the country). Investigators are also looking at whether officials of the group in France were aware of such agreements and of the danger that they were able to run to the employees of the syrians on the spot.
“LafargeHolcim recalls that he condemned with the greatest firmness the errors committed in Syria and that it puts everything in place so that such a situation can no longer reproduce. The case has been dealt with very seriously within the company that loaded as early as 2016 a law firm to conduct an independent investigation,” responded the group in a statement sent Tuesday evening to the AFP.
” $ 20,000 per month to the EI”
The scandal was revealed in June 2016, by an investigation of the newspaper The World, which had highlighted a “disturbing arrangements” between Lafarge Cement Syria (LCS), the branch to the syrian group, and the organization islamic State as the group jihadist was gaining ground and became a fixture in the region.
Two months later, the ministry of the Economy had filed a complaint, triggering the opening of a preliminary investigation by the public prosecutor of Paris, entrusted to the national Service of customs judiciaire (SNDJ). In its report, of which the AFP is aware of this, the SNDJ concludes that LCS has “made payments to the groups-jihadists” for as the plant continues to operate. This was for the AR “of the order of $ 20,000” per month, said Bruno Pescheux, the director of the cement from 2008 to 2014, before the investigators of the SNDJ, according to a source close to the folder.
According to the SNDJ, the direction of the French group “has validated the rebates of the funds by producing false accounting documents”. Investigators suspect also LCS to be, under the guise of bogus consulting contracts, supplied by oil from the AR that was taken, from June 2013, the control of the majority of strategic reserves in Syria. “For me, things were under control. If nothing hauled me up, is that nothing material happened,” assured the ex-CEO of the group, Bruno Lafont in front of the SNDJ.
former leaders of the cement companies have said that this willingness to remain at all costs in the countries at war had received the endorsement of the French authorities and the association of anti-corruption Sherpa, who has also filed on behalf of eleven former employees of the syrians from the plant, has asked the former minister of foreign Affairs Laurent Fabius to be heard. To date, magistrates have heard several ex-employees of the syrians from the factory.