A French cement company agreed to pay nearly $778 million in fines after pleading guilty in U.S. federal court on Monday to giving money to radical Islamic terror groups in order to continue operating in Syria from 2013 to 2014.
Lafarge, a Paris-based building manufacturer with subsidiaries across the world, admitted to paying almost $6 million to the Islamic State and al-Nusrah Front terrorist organizations in order to allow the company’s Syrian branch to operate, earning more than $70 million, according to the Justice Department.
The company pleaded guilty Monday to one charge of conspiring to provide material support and resources to U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations, marking the Justice Department’s first-ever case prosecuted for corporate material support for terrorism. U.S. District Judge William Kuntz II sentenced the defendants to probation in addition to $777.78 million in criminal fines.
“The defendants routed nearly six million dollars in illicit payments to two of the world’s most notorious terrorist organizations – ISIS and al-Nusrah Front in Syria – at a time those groups were brutalizing innocent civilians in Syria and actively plotting to harm Americans,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen said.
As other companies ceased operations in Syria due to the country’s civil war, from May 2010 to September 2014, Lafarge continued business at its cement plant in Northern Syria.
Lafarge executives “purchased raw materials needed to manufacture cement from ISIS-controlled suppliers” and “paid monthly ‘donations’ to armed groups” in order to operate, prosecutors stated.
The company eventually agreed to pay ISIS based on the volume of cement sold, which executives compared to paying “taxes,” officials said.