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Multinational investigated for ?terrorist business relations?

The company has been asked to divulge any relationship it may have had with militant groups in Syria to legal prosecutors in France.

This follows recent allegations that senior executives agreed to pay ‘protection money’ to potential terrorist organisations at the company’s Syrian cement plant up until it was evacuated in 2014.

According to a  statement, the company’s ongoing internal investigation admitted to ‘significant errors in judgement’.

“Syria’s deteriorating political situation posed difficult challenges for the plant operations and security of personnel,” a spokesperson for the company said.

“The local company provided funds to third parties to work out arrangements with a number of armed groups, including sanctioned parties, in order to maintain operations and ensure safe passage of employees and supplies to and from the plant,” the statement concluded.

According to a report in Bloomberg, this disclosure came after a book by former LafargeHolcim security manager Jacob Waerness was published last year, alleging the company continued making cement in its Syrian factory between 2011 and 2014 while the civil war raged on.

In the book, Waerness also alleged the company had to resort to extreme measures – such as negotiating freedom for kidnapped employees and cutting supply deals with local fighters – to keep production continuing and ‘safeguard’ its supply, with the company possibly misjudging how serious the situation was.

A spokesperson for LafargeHolcim stated the ‘full facts’ about payments would be disclosed in an upcoming report once it could establish with certainty who the recipients of the payments were.

The company has also created an ethics and risk committee to further evaluate its joint ventures and sanctions. A company spokesperson said it was ‘not party’ to any of the legal proceedings that had been filed in France.

Questions that prosecutors hope to gain answers to include whether the company broke sanctions by making payments at regime-controlled checkpoints, and whether workers were evacuated or in fact fled when the situation became dire.

LafargeHolcim was created in 2015 after French cement manufacturer Lafarge merged with its Swiss counterpart Holcim.

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