Lafarge Cement has been placed under formal investigation for complicity in crimes against humanity and financing a terrorist enterprise in Syria.
Investigators have not yet said if some of the money is or is not from the Zambian plant.
Lafarge is suspected of paying nearly €13 million in murky deals to the Islamic State (IS) group after the jihadist group seized control of the Jalabiya region in northern Syria where the company was running a cement plant.
A French judicial official told the AP that the company was being investigated as a legal entity that violated an embargo and endangered the lives of others.
Lafarge has acknowledged funneling money to Syrian armed groups in 2013 and 2014 – allegedly including the IS group – to guarantee safe passage for employees and supply its plant in the war-torn country.
Three Lafarge officials were charged last year for turning a blind eye to the company’s payments to the jihadist group.
Bruno Lafont, Lafarge chief executive from 2007 to 2015, and the group’s former Syria chief, Christian Herrault, have been charged with “financing a terrorist organization” and “endangering the lives of others”.
Eric Olsen, who took over from Lafont as CEO after the company merged with Switzerland’s Holcim, has also been charged with the same crimes.
The wrongdoing precedes Lafarge’s merger with Swiss company Holcim in 2015 to create LafargeHolcim, the world’s largest cement maker.
Lafarge to appeal charges
In a statement Thursday, LafargeHolcim said Lafarge “will appeal against those charges which do not fairly represent the responsibilities” of the company.
The chairman of the board of LafargeHolcim, Beat Hess, said “We truly regret what has happened in the Syria subsidiary and after learning about it took immediate and firm actions. None of the individuals put under investigation is today with the