While the French Supreme Court said Tuesday that the French-based cement giant Lafarge should face investigation on a charge of complicity in crimes against humanity in Syria, overturning a previous ruling, newly discovered documents reveal that the company informed France's intelligence services about their relations with the Daesh terrorist group in Syria and that these relations were conducted within the knowledge of French state institutions and officials.
Documents belonging to French official institutions obtained by Anadolu Agency (AA) also exposed that the French intelligence agencies, who used Lafarge's network of relations to get news from the region in order to cooperate with terrorist organizations in Syria and to carry out their activities, did not warn the company that what they did was a crime.
Lafarge was investigated on charges of "participating in crimes against humanity" on the grounds that it paid Daesh to carry out its activities in Syria. The former CEO of the company was also charged with paying the Daesh terrorist group to allow the firm to continue operating in Syria. The French company was said to have paid Daesh and other militants around $5.6 million between 2012 and 2014 so that production at its plant in northern Syria would not be interrupted. Lafarge's Syrian subsidiary Lafarge Cement Syria was also thought to have used fake contracts to buy fuel from Daesh.
In the new documents belonging to the French state, it is understood that the relationship between Lafarge and the French intelligence service started with an email sent by the company's security director Jean Claude Veillard to an address belonging to the Ministry of Interior's intelligence directorate on Jan. 22, 2014.
Company official Veillard stated in his email that Lafarge is still active in Syria and needs to establish relations with “local actors” in order to continue its work. The director of security asked the intelligence service how much risk their executives and headquarters were at, noting that there had been some negative press coverage about them. Responding to Lafarge, the intelligence service officer informed him of a date to discuss this situation.
After the scandalous discussion of the Lafarge-Daesh relations in France and the reflection of the issue in the court, the intelligence officer with the code name AM 02 gave a statement in court on Nov. 18, 2018.
According to the court transcript, the officer admitted that Lafarge was his source of information in Syria. The intelligence officer told the judge how the French secret services took advantage of the Lafarge factory. In the records, the intelligence officer did not exclude Daesh, saying that during the 2012-2014 period Lafarge sent cement to all armed groups in Syria, including the Nusra Front.
"We approached the situation purely opportunistically, taking advantage of Lafarge's continued work," the intelligence officer said in the court.
The details of sending cement to Daesh were discussed in the correspondence between Lafarge Security Manager Veillard and the French Ministry of Interior intelligence on Sept. 1, 2014.
“Can you give more details about the cement going to Daesh?” the French intelligence agent asked. From this statement, it is clear that the French state was aware of Lafarge's relationship with the terrorist organization at that time.
In the documents seen by AA, it is noteworthy that there were more than 30 meetings between Lafarge and the French domestic, foreign and military intelligence services between 2013 and 2014 alone.
It is known that Daesh had built strong shelters and tunnels against the United States-led coalition forces with the cement it was provided.
Veillard, the company's head of security, testified to police on Nov. 30, 2017, when Lafarge was accused of committing crimes against humanity by financing terrorist organizations.
According to the transcript obtained by AA, Veillard tried to prove that he had informed the French state and intelligence agencies of everything he had done during his deposition.
The annexes to the statement included documents regarding the interview information of the Lafarge security manager in the field, the conditions as they developed in the field and the information he received.
It was understood that Veillard transferred the field information about the conflicts and the military balance between the armed groups to the French intelligence.
On one of the pages in question was found a note handwritten by Veillard in October 2013, "Sent to French foreign intelligence (DGSE)."
In France, in 2016, the news was published that Lafarge financed the terrorist organization Daesh in the Syrian civil war.
According to the French press, the company provided materials and fuel from the organization in addition to paying tribute to Daesh in order to continue its activities in the Jalabiya region of Syria, a town located close to Ain al-Arab.
While the company admitted in 2017 that it had made payments to armed groups to keep the factory open, it denied accusations of "participating in crimes against humanity."
Eight executives of the company, into which an investigation was launched, were charged with financing terrorism and collaborating in crimes against humanity.
The charge of "participating in crimes against humanity" that was brought against the company in June 2018 was dropped in November 2019.
Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reacting to the dismissal of the charge brought the issue to the French Supreme Court.
The French Supreme Court was expected to reach a decision on Tuesday that would pave or close the way for Lafarge to be charged with complicity in crimes against humanity for financing Daesh terrorists. In the decision, the court said that Lafarge should face investigation on a charge of complicity in crimes against humanity in Syria, overturning a previous ruling.
According to another intelligence document revealed earlier this year, French state officials were informed about payments made by cement giant Lafarge to Daesh terrorists in Syria. The confidential document from August 2014 notes that Lafarge had forged a deal with Daesh to maintain commercial operations in Syria, Liberation daily reported. According to the deal, Daesh terrorists allowed Lafarge to continue to carry out operations in the seized factory in northern Syria’s Jalabiya in return for 13 million euros ($15.3 million). Lafarge is currently facing a series of cases over violating the embargo, threatening the lives of its workers and financing a terrorist organization.
Previously, Turkey’s ongoing anti-terror operations in northeastern Syria have once again revealed the security threats that arise when terrorist groups usurp infrastructure and manufacturing facilities.
In a speech in 2019, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan once again censured the vast amount of ammunition and heavy weapons provided for the PKK's Syrian branch YPG by Turkey’s allies, particularly the U.S. He also raised another important risk for Turkey’s national security – as the YPG is not only equipped with arms and ammunition but significant facilities such as Lafarge’s vast plant in Jalabiya, which is used as a base and manufacturing site for the group.
“We are seeing 90 kilometer-long tunnels in northern Syria. How do they build these tunnels? Where is the cement to construct them coming from?” the president asked. “The cement for the tunnel construction comes from Lafarge’s plant in the region, a French firm,” he said, demanding an explanation from France, another one of Turkey’s allies in NATO.
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