French ex-min­is­ter draws fire over pay­ments to Daesh

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - REGION -

The anti-cor­rup­tion as­so­ci­a­tion Sherpa called Fri­day for for­mer French For­eign Min­is­ter Lau­rent Fabius to be ques­tioned over pay­ments made by ce­ment-maker La­farge to Daesh (ISIS) through a Syr­ian mid­dle­man.

Sherpa is one of 12 civil plain­tiffs in a case against La­farge over pay­ments it made to Daesh and other armed groups to keep its Syr­ian op­er­a­tions run­ning dur­ing the coun­try’s civil war.

La­farge clung on in Syria for two years af­ter most French com­pa­nies had left. Daesh even­tu­ally took over its north­ern Jal­abiya plant in Septem­ber 2014.

To en­sure pro­tec­tion of its staff be­tween 2013 and 2014, La­farge Ce­ment Syria paid be­tween $80,000 and $100,000 a month to var­i­ous armed groups, in­clud­ing $20,000 to Daesh, said a source close to the year-old in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The ce­ment-maker has ad­mit­ted to “un­ac­cept­able mis­takes com­mit­ted in Syria.”

A se­nior La­farge of­fi­cial told in­ves­ti­ga­tors the com­pany had the bless­ing of the gov­ern­ment of So­cial­ist then-Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande to stay on dur­ing the fight­ing.

Sherpa Fri­day con­firmed that it had asked in­ves­ti­gat­ing mag­is­trates to ques­tion Fabius and two for­mer am­bas­sadors to Syria, Eric Che­val­lier and Franck Gel­let, over the af­fair.

“It is im­per­a­tive to look at all those who might be re­spon­si­ble if the state was in­deed im­pli­cated in this af­fair,” said Marie-Laure Guis­lain of Sherpa.

La­farge’s bosses in Paris are sus­pected of hav­ing ap­proved pay­ments to mil­i­tant groups through the use of false ac­count­ing doc­u­ments.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tors have heard from four for­mer Syr­ian em­ploy­ees, one of whom de­scribed the pres­sure lo­cal staff came un­der to re­main on the job long af­ter ex­pa­tri­ate staff had fled.

For­mer of­fi­cials told in­ves­ti­ga­tors that the com­pany was keen to stay on to be in pole po­si­tion for re­con­struc­tion con­tracts when the war ended.

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