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Two Swiss-French firm officials charged with financing Daesh in Syria

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This photo taken on March 9, 2017 in Paris shows a logo at the entrance of the French headquarters of French-Swiss cement maker LafargeHolcim. (By AFP)

Two top managers of the Swiss-French industrial company LafargeHolcim have been charged with funneling money to the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group through the company’s activities in conflict-ridden Syria.

A judicial source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the two senior executives at LafargeHolcim, including its former CEO, were charged on Friday over accusations of paying the Takfiri outfit and other foreign-backed militant groups through a middleman between 2013 and 2014 in an attempt to allow the company’s factory in Jalabiyah in northern Syria to continue to operate.

The duo, identified as Bruno Lafont, chief executive from 2007 to 2015, and the group’s former Syria chief Christian Herrault, appeared in court for hearings and were remanded in custody over charges of “financing a terrorist organization,” and “endangering the lives of others.”

This photo taken on February 17, 2012 shows French cement giant Lafarge CEO Bruno Lafont talking during a press conference in Paris. (By AFP)

Eric Olsen, who took over from Lafont as CEO after the company merged with Switzerland’s Holcim, was charged with the same crimes a day earlier. The three officials have been in detention since Wednesday.

Three other top managers at the Jalabiya factory were charged in the case last week.

The company, which produces cement, construction aggregates and concrete, was initially founded as Lafarge in France in 1833. In 2015, however, it merged with Holcim, a Swiss building supplies company, and began to be called LafargeHolcim henceforth.

The Swiss-French firm is also suspected of employing fake consulting contracts to purchase oil from Daesh in mid-2013, when the terror organization took control of most of Syria’s strategic oil reserves.

Outgoing CEO of the French-Swiss construction materials giant LafargeHolcim, Eric Olsen looks on during a press conference following the company’s annual meeting in Zurich on May 3, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The Takfiri terrorists, who have now lost all the territory formerly under their control in Syria, had taken control of the Jalabiyah plant in September 2014.

Prosecutors opened a probe in June into the company’s operations and its possible “financing of a terrorist enterprise.” The investigation has gained pace in recent weeks, with police conducting an extensive search at the company's Paris headquarters last month.

Along with France, several European countries, particularly Britain, have been supporting the militants operating against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since 2011.

They are also party to a US-led coalition, which has been bombing so-called Daesh targets in Syria since 2014. Those raids, which have done little to eliminate the terrorists, have led to a high number of civilian deaths in Syria and caused damage to its infrastructure.

Last week, Britain suspended an aid program for the war-ravaged country to investigate reports that the money is ending up in the wrong hands.

The British newscaster BBC revealed that the cash used to form an unarmed police force in militant-held areas was being diverted to extremist groups.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The Syrian government says the Israeli regime and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri terrorist groups that are wreaking havoc in the country.

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