French prosecutors seek Lafarge trial for terror financing


French prosecutors have recommended that cement maker Lafarge stand trial on charges of terrorism financing over its past activities in Syria, a source close to the case told AFP Friday.
France’s anti-terror prosecution unit (PNAT) wants to put the company and nine of its former managers in the dock, the source said.
Lafarge has since 2015 been part of Swiss building materials conglomerate Holcim.
It has acknowledged that in 2013 and 2014 it paid nearly 13 million euros ($14.2 million at current rates) to middlemen to keep its Syrian cement factory running.
This was long after other French firms had pulled out of the country.
The company contends that it had no responsibility for the money winding up in the hands of groups, which allegedly included Daesh.
But in a PNAT filing seen by AFP, prosecutors took a different view.
The company “either intended the funds to be used entirely, or in part, toward the objective of committing terrorist acts, or was aware that this was how they would be used,” they wrote.
Lafarge pulled out its foreign staff from the Syrian site in 2012 but kept local workers in place until 2014, when the site was evacuated just before Daesh took it over.
Several Syrian staff and NGOs — Sherpa and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) — filed a legal complaint against Lafarge, and France’s judiciary opened a probe in 2017.
Last month, France’s top appeals court ruled that Lafarge and the former managers could be charged with complicity in crimes against humanity over the payoffs. Prosecutors are still investigating those accusations.
However, the court threw out an earlier charge of endangering the lives of others, saying French law could not be applied to Syrians working in the factory.