Company rejects ‘concept’ of terrorist financing and says employee safety ‘priority’
Business partner of Isis and financier of terrorism. It is not an accusation a leading European industrial group would welcome. But it is one that has been used to describe LafargeHolcim, the Swiss-listed cement company as it faces allegations of associating with terrorist groups in war-torn Syria.
Some of the allegations against the company, which had a plant in Jalabiya in north eastern Syria, include paying protection money to militants and have now come to the attention of French
prosecutors and human rights groups. “People reading the news today say we were an ATM for Isis, but you can’t make a judgment without looking at the context,” says Jacob Waerness, risk manager at Lafarge cement in Syria until October 2013. However, the troubles that befell the Jalabiya plant, have come back to haunt LafargeHolcim, which was formed in 2015 by the €41bn merger of Lafarge in France and Switzerland’s Holcim.
This month, the company admitted “unacceptable” measures were taken to keep the plant running as the civil war intensified in 2013 until it was finally evacuated in September 2014. Those responsible for the plant had made “significant errors of judgment”.
LafargeHolcim told the Financial Times that a report in coming weeks, compiled with law firms Baker McKenzie in Washington and Darrois Villey in Paris, would uncover “the full facts” about the plant’s operation.
The Lafarge plant near Syria’s border with Turkey was acquired in 2007 from Egyptian cement company Orascom and Min Ajl Suriya (MAS), a Syrian company owned by business tycoon Firas Tlass. Mr Tlass retained about a 1 per cent stake, according to LafargeHolcim.