November 7, 2019 / 9:11 AM / 12 days ago

France's Lafarge has charge of crimes against humanity lifted

FILE PHOTO: The logo of LafargeHolcim, the world's largest cement maker, is seen at its headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland March 2, 2017. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

LONDON (Reuters) - A French appeal court on Wednesday rejected a preliminary charge of “complicity in crimes against humanity” brought against cement maker Lafarge, part of Lafarge Holcim, over its operations in Syria, the company said on Thursday.

But the French company still faces investigation into charges of “financing terrorism”, endangerment of people’s lives and violation of sanctions.

French authorities are looking into whether Lafarge, which was taken over by Swiss rival Holcim in 2015, paid Islamic State in 2013 and 2014 to keep its factories running in areas controlled by the group.

LafargeHolcim acknowledged the court’s decision and said it continued to cooperate with French judicial authorities.

“LafargeHolcim deeply regrets the unacceptable errors committed in Syria,” the company said in a statement. “The company has taken immediate and firm steps to make sure that similar events will not happen again.”

Prosecutors opened their investigation into suspected funding of terrorism in June, 2017. They probed payments possibly made by Lafarge through intermediaries to armed groups, including Islamic State, and into possible purchases of raw materials from intermediaries related to these groups.

None of the individuals placed under investigation remained with the company, which stopped operating in Syria more than five years ago, LafargeHolcim said.

Reporting by Simon Carraud; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by GV De Clercq, Hugh Lawson and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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