Terror finance charges against LafargeHolcim's ex-CEO dropped

French cement maker Lafarge was taken over by Swiss rival Holcim in 2015. Eric Olsen, the first CEO after the merger, resigned over the Syria scandal. Keystone

French judges have dropped preliminary charges against LafargeHolcim’s former CEO, Eric Olsen, for "financing a terrorist enterprise."

This content was published on March 5, 2019 - 21:02

The accusation is rooted in a broader investigation into French cement maker Lafarge’s operations in northern Syria at a time when extremist groups were on the rise. Lafarge was taken over by its Swiss rival, Holcim, in 2015.

"This decision clears my honor and will allow me to resume my career," said Olsen in a press statement.

The Syria scandal prompted Olsen, the first CEO post-merger, to step down.

The former general manager of the world's leading cement company remains under investigation for "endangering the lives of others".

According to a source close to the file cited by French news agency AFP, he is also contesting these charges, arguing that he had not committed any offence because he had no decision-making power over the region concerned at the time of the events.

During an investigation, eight former executives or managers, including Lafarge's former CEO Bruno Lafont, were charged with "financing a terrorist enterprise" and/or "endangering the lives" of employees.

Arrest warrants were also issued for two local intermediaries at the heart of the case, Amro Taleb and Firas Tlass.

Lafarge was indicted in June 2017 for "financing a terrorist enterprise" and "complicity in crimes against humanity".

The company is suspected of having paid nearly 13 million euros (CHF15 million) via a subsidiary to intermediaries and armed groups, including the Islamic State organization.

The payments were reportedly made to maintain production in its Jalabiya plant, while the country was sinking into war.

The investigation raised questions about whether French had turned a blind eye or encouraged the activities of Lafarge in Syria.

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