PARIS: A French appeals court confirmed Wednesday a charge of complicity in crimes against humanity against the cement group Lafarge over alleged payoffs to the Islamic State and other jihadist groups during Syria’s civil war, paving the way for an eventual trial.
Rights activists hope the case will serve as a bellwether for prosecuting multinationals accused of turning a blind eye to terrorist operations in exchange for continuing to operate in war-torn countries.
Lafarge, now part of the Swiss building materials conglomerate Holcim, has acknowledged that it paid nearly 13 million euros ($13.7 million) to middlemen to keep its Syrian cement factory running in 2013 and 2014, long after other French firms had pulled out of the country.
The company contends that it had no responsibility for the money winding up in the hands of terrorist groups, and in 2019 it won a court ruling that threw out the charge of complicity in crimes against humanity.
But that ruling was overturned by France’s supreme court, which ordered a retrial in September 2021, and the decision Wednesday means that a judge could order Lafarge and eight of its executives, including former CEO Bruno Lafont, to stand trial.