Sherpa is an NGO that represents the former workers of the cement group Lafarge-Holcim in Syria. It has initiated legal proceedings against the multinational after an article was published in the Monde on the company’s relations with jihadists [1].

Six executives and directors of the cement manufacturer have been placed under formal investigation in December «for endangering the life of another» and « funding a terrorist enterprise ». These include Lafarge’s former CEO, Bruno Lafont and the former Managing Director of LafargeHolcim, Eric Olsen

Lafarge-Holcim for its part had announced that it had hired the law firm Baker McKenzie to investigate the « errors of judgement» of its executives [2]. Its report (exposed by a contributor to Le Monde) exonerates the multinational and inculpates its executives.

According to the former managing director, Pierre Cornut-Gentille Esq’s lawyer, this inquiry was not conducted « respecting the principles that normally govern this type of procedure in France ». In contrast, Baker McKenzie has defended the interests of the hand that feeds it by providing it with pretexts for getting rid of some of its executives. The law firm would have been instructed to prepare for closing the proceedings by “une convention judiciare d’interet public” (CJIP), the French equivalent of settlement under US law.

It is no coincidence that Baker McKenzie’s mission had been led by a former official of the US Justice Department.

During a press conference, the lawyer for Sherpa, Marie Dosé Esq, denounced Lafarge for:
• failing to cooperate with the courts;
• cleaning the computers with bleach before the search;
• destroying countless pieces of equipment;
• failing to provide the majority of data requested (9 000 out of 15 000);
• putting pressure on its clients.

It seems that the instructing magistrates had perfectly understanding the crux of this case: it is clear that Lafarge had paid the Islamic State for transporting its personnel (and not for buying petrol as the company had previously admitted). But “the tree hides the forest”. The multinational is not disputing that it had produced around 6 million tonnes of cement during the war in Syria nor that it had authorized Nato Special Forces to use its factory as their headquarters. It was only able to sell off its cement in the areas occupied by the jihadists where no important private construction had been undertaken. It is during this period that the jihadists built an imposing line of underground fortifications that cut Syria in two until it was destroyed by the Russian Air Force’s army. This raises the following question: did Lafarge provide these 6 million tonnes of cement to the jihadists on behalf of the United States or Nato?

The instructing magistrates are thus heading to putting the multinational under formal investigation.

Anoosha Boralessa

[1Revelations – Lafarge-Holcim’s jihad”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Pete Kimberley, Voltaire Network, 24 March 2017.

[2« Communiqué de Lafarge-Holcim sur ses activités en Syrie », Réseau Voltaire, 2 mars 2017.