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Lafarge fined $778m for supporting terror organisations



French cement manufacturer, Lafarge pleaded guilty in the Brooklyn federal court, the United States court on Tuesday to a charge that it made payments to a terrorist group, Islamic State to keep the company operational in Syria.

The admission marked the first time a company has pleaded guilty in the US to charges of providing material support to a terrorist organisation.

According to Reuters, Lafarge, which became part of Swiss-listed Holcim (HOLN.S) in 2015, agreed to pay $778 million in forfeiture and fines as part of the plea agreement.

US prosecutors said Lafarge and its Syrian subsidiary Lafarge Cement Syria paid IS and al Nusra Front, through intermediaries, the equivalent of approximately $5.92 million between 2013 and 2014 to allow employees, customers and suppliers to pass through checkpoints after civil conflict broke out in Syria.

The report said that allowed the company to earn $70 million in sales revenue from a plant it operated in northern Syria, prosecutors said.

“Lafarge made a deal with the devil,” Breon Peace, the top federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, told reporters following the guilty plea. “This conduct by a Western corporation was appalling and has no precedent or justification.”

The cement maker eventually evacuated the cement plant in September 2014, according to US prosecutors said. At that point, IS took possession of the remaining cement and sold it for the equivalent of $3.21 million.

Lafarge Chair Magali Anderson said in court on Tuesday that from August 2013 until November 2014 former executives of the company “knowingly and willfully agreed to participate in a conspiracy to make and authorize payments intended for the benefit of various armed groups in Syria.”

In a statement, Holcim noted that none of the conduct involved Holcim, “which has never operated in Syria, or any Lafarge operations or employees in the United States, and it is in stark contrast with everything that Holcim stands for.”

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