LaFarge Cement paid ISIS to protect Syria operations – What you need to know

French cement business LaFarge has pled guilty to violating US sanctions laws by making payments to ISIS and an Al Queda affiliate in Syria, according to the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). The company will pay a fine and prosecutions of the executives involved are ongoing. 


EFFECTIVE: October 19, 2022 

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30-second take 

  • Earlier this month, the DOJ announced that French cement business LaFarge pled guilty to violating US sanctions laws. 
  • According to the DOJ, LaFarge was making payments to ISIS and an Al Queda affiliate in Syria to keep its plant operating.  
  • The company will pay a US fine of nearly $780 million. Prosecutions of LaFarge executives are ongoing. 
  • The case highlights the importance of conducting thorough due diligence on potential acquisitions, particularly in high-risk areas. 

3-minute deeper dive 

French business pleads guilty to bribery and corruption with ISIS 

On October 19, LaFarge Cement, a large French cement producer, pled guilty to making nearly $6 million in payments to the Islamic State (ISIS) and an Al Queda affiliate in Syria to protect its cement plant in Syria and to keep it operating during the Syrian civil war. LaFarge gained about $70 million in revenue from the arrangement while making prohibited payments to ISIS.  

Executives at LaFarge bought production materials from ISIS-controlled suppliers, paid ISIS to impose extra costs on rival companies, and funneled monthly "donations" to both terror groups to ensure that employees and others could cross checkpoints in the area around the plant, according to the US Department of Justice. The company made the payments in 2013 and 2014, when ISIS was conducting live online beheadings and torture, frequently targeting journalists and aid workers. LaFarge employees concealed the arrangement and hid details by using third parties. 

LaFarge business leaders explored deepening initiatives, a “new low” says DOJ  

Making matters worse, the group of LaFarge executives involved in setting up the payments explored deepening and expanding their initiatives with ISIS through a revenue-sharing agreement and enlisting ISIS from blocking out competitors from importing cement from Turkey, the DOJ said. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco described the actions taken by LaFarge executives as a “new low” and “very dark place” in announcing the guilty plea.   

DOJ reports LaFarge to pay fine of nearly $780 million for US sanctions violation 

LaFarge will pay a fine in the US of almost $778 million for violating US sanctions laws. Prosecutions of the executives involved are ongoing in France. LaFarge is headquartered in France and was purchased by the Swiss company Holcim in 2015. The case illustrates the need to conduct thorough and deep due diligence on potential acquisitions, particularly those operating in high-risk areas.  

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