French intelligence agencies including the French Interior Ministry’s Central Directorate of Interior Intelligence (DCRI) not only ignored but used the French cement giant Lafarge’s ties with the notorious terrorist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Daesh).
Leaked official French documents suggest that the French intelligence agencies were aware of Lafarge’s relationship with ISIS. It is also alleged that the intelligence agencies never warned Lafarge that they were committing a crime before the company was charged with “complicity in a crime against humanity” over funding ISIS to continue its operation in Syria.
Documents show that the collaboration between the French intelligence agencies and the cement giant began in January 2014 when Lafarge’s security director Jean-Claude Veillard sent an e-mail to the Interior Ministry’s intelligence directorate.
Veillard’s email was essentially a request for strategic support to maintain working relations with “local actors” to continue the company’s operations in Syria and to ensure executives and the headquarter of the company. The intelligence officer on the other end of the call, code-named AM 02, later appeared in court on November 18, 2018, after reports claiming that Lafarge was financing terror groups in the Syrian civil war surfaced in France in 2016.
In his statement submitted to the court, the officer admitted that Lafarge was his source of information in Syria. The intelligence officer explained how the French secret services took advantage of the Lafarge connections. The court records show that the intelligence officer said that Lafarge sent cement to all armed groups in Syria, including the al-Nusra Front and ISIS, in the 2012-2014 period.
The intelligence officer said, “We approached the situation purely opportunistically, taking advantage of Lafarge’s continued work.”
The leaked documents also indicate that France’s domestic, foreign, and military intelligence services held more than 30 meetings with Lafarge between 2013 and 2014 alone.
Before the intelligence officer confirmed the allegations in 2018, Veillard had already testified to the police on November 30, 2017. In his statement, Veillard said that he kept the French state and intelligence institutions in the loop about everything.
All of this shared information is available in the appendices of Veillard’s statement. It includes information related to the meetings, field conditions, and even the speculations that came into Veillard’s knowledge. It was later revealed that Veillard had also shared field information related to the clashes and military balances between the terror groups.
According to the French media, the company also supplied materials and fuel to the terror organization for it.
In 2017, the company admitted paying the terror groups in Syria to continue its operations in the Celibiye region but it denied allegations of “complicity in crimes against humanity.” Eight managers, including two high-ranking officers, were charged with allegations of financing terrorism and cooperating in committing crimes against humanity.
The court dropped the charge of “complicity in crimes against humanity” in November 2019. In response, the non-governmental organizations took the matter to the French Supreme Court, which upheld charges against Lafarge of “financing terrorism.”
The revelation of this scandalous cover-up involving the French interior ministry is nothing but hypocritical, especially given France is one of the leading voices that demand Pakistan to “do more” to move out of the Financial Action Task Force’s grey list.