French newspaper uncovers new information about Lafarge in Syria

QAMISHLI, Syria (North Press) – Leadership of a French company was involved in paying off the Islamic State (ISIS) during the early years of the Syrian war, a French newspaper uncovered on March 20.

Le Monde, a French daily, found that Lafarge’s leadership was involved in the company’s paying off of radical militias, including ISIS, during the early years of the Syrian War. It also found that its main security officer at the time has been falsely charged with “financing terrorism” by a French court.

The French Lafarge company, since bought up by the Swiss Holcim conglomerate, ran a cement factory around 45km southeast of Kobani in northern Syria until 2015, when it was taken over by ISIS. Lafarge paid groups operating in the region around $15.34 million to carry on its operations, with between $4.8 and 10 million going to ISIS, according to one estimate. The money “paid passage fees and ransoms and purchased raw materials taxed by various Syrian armed rebel groups,” says Le Monde.

The company’s leadership since plead guilty to financing terrorism and has ongoing criminal suits for crimes against humanity (in France) and civil suits by the relatives of American military personnel killed in Syria (in the US).

The new investigation by Le Monde reveals that Lafarge hired a security officer in 2013, the Jordanian citizen Ahmed Jaludi, who worked closely with French and US intelligence during his stint in Syria. He is now accused of financing terrorism in France.

Jaludi provided foreign intelligence services with detailed maps and information on the location of Western hostages held by ISIS and other groups. The Jordanian employee also brokered the release of a number of prisoners. “Everyone benefited from my intelligence work: the coalition against the Islamic State, the United Nations, the NGOs. I am very proud of what I did,” he says.

Le Monde’s investigation makes clear that Lafarge’s leadership at the time wanted to shift the responsibility for paying off these unsavory groups to its on-the-ground employees, including Lafarge’s truck drivers.

Jaludi vehemently rejects that he made any payments to ISIS or other groups. “I wasn’t in charge of the money. I never paid anyone or ordered any payment,” he explains. “My job was simply to ensure the safety of the Lafarge plant and its employees, and to inform the coalition of developments on the ground. I believe that I was successful in my mission.”

Reporting by Sasha Hoffman