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French cement company buys oil from ISIS: documents

Writing by Ethar Abdulhaq; Translation by Yusra Ahmed

(Zaman Al Wasl- Exclusive)- A giant French cement company based in northern Aleppo province is buying fuel and oil from the Islamic State, documents obtained by Zaman al-Wasl showed.

The leaked data, emails and documents reveal that Lafarge Cement Syria has been buying fuel from ISIS, besides negligence of safety procedures for the 2500 workers in the factory, as well as using dangerous chemical can be used for making explosives and fuel for rockets, added to discrimination in paying ransoms of millions of pounds to free Alawite abducted workers, ignoring other abductees.

Frederic Jolibois, CEO at Lafarge Cement Syria, refused to comment on the summary letter sent by Zaman Al Wasl, “our company does not reply to rumors and guessing” confirming that Lafarge was keen to protect workers and safty was their priority, therefore they had evacuated to plant situated in Jalibeh town, 160 km away from Aleppo, in September 2014.

Zaman Al Wasl opens an investigation about Lafarge Cement Syria company and publishes it in parts, in this part concentrating on the relationship between the company and the Islamic State and the mediators between both of them.

Lafarge is a French industrial company specialising in three major products: cement, construction aggregates, and concrete.

On July 10, 2015, Lafarge merged with Holcim, a Swiss cement company. On July 15, the new company was officially launched around the globe under the name of Lafarge-Holcim, creating a new leader in the Building Materials sector. It has 2500 factory around the world in 90 countries worth a profit of $32 billion a year, the number of worker reaches to 115 thousand workers.

Lafarge Cement Syria was established in Jalbiyeh town, between Ras Alain and Ayn al-Arab "Kobani", 160 km away from Aleppo, production started in 2010 at volume between 2.5 and 3 million tonnes.

Lafarge cement Syria is one of the largest French investments in Syria after the boycott Syria suffers following assassination of Rafiq Al-Hariri in 2005.

Sources reported to Zaman Al Wasl that Lafarge Cement Syria was founded from Syrian Cement company when the businessman Firas Tlas under instruction from basher al-Assad agreed with the Egyptian businessman Naguib Sawiris and his brother Nasiff, CEO of Orascom Construction Industries. The two brothers agreed to establish a cement plant under the name of “Syrian Cement”, partnership with Firas Tlas. During constructing the plant, a merge between Orascom and Lafarge took place, therefore the ownership of the factory in Syria was transferred to the new merge, and Tlas’s share in Orascom had been transferred to Lafarge.

After announcing his support to revolution, Firas Tlas was accused of funding terrorism and his share in Lafarge was transferred to the ministry of Industry in Syrian government.

Zaman Al wasl has evidence about frequent dealing between the Lafarge Cement Syria and Islamic State in regard to exchange fuel and cement between them.

In July 13, 2014, Mamdooh al-Khalid, Manager of Lafarge Syria and sales manager, wrote to Bruno Pescheux, General Manager of Lafarge warning him about buying Fuel from non-governmental company in areas out of the regime’s control, as the matter had become under light and too controversial at the time and if the regime had discovered that the matter, it might have taken procedure.

On 14th of the same month, Pescheux replied to Mamdooh and agreed on his points about illegal fuel buying and gave him points to highlight in case the Syrian regime discovered that, and advised him to mention that Lafarge had done its best to get fuel from the government, and wondered about the previous requests for fuel from Homs refinery.

Moreover, Pescheux highlighted points to stick with in case of query about the matter, like that fuel was very vital for the plant to work to produce cement that sold the the company pay tax to the government, moreover, the company used fuel only to run the factory, and did not export it outside the country and the amount of fuel was too small compared to the amount was smuggled outside the country, added to difficulties in transporting fuel from Banyas refinery to Raqqa.

On September 9, 2014, Ahmed.J, the connection between the Islamic State and Lafarge Cement Syria, wrote an email with strong language demanding paying an amount of 7 million adnd 655 thousand Syrian pounds to the Islamic State, advising the company to appreciate that it dealt with the strongest Islamic Army in the world, and advised the company not to lose that advantage.

Ahmad warn the company from pushing the situation to a critical level if it had not paid the bill, notifying the effort was given to calm down tension resulted from not paying the money and gave the company a notice till the end of September 2014 to pay back the money.

On September 10, 2014, a day after Ahmed’s email, the employee responsible for sales had forwarded Ahmed’s email to CEO Frederic Jolibois, and asked him to assign another member to communicate with Ahmed instead of him, as he had gone through lots o troubles during his work with Ahmed and things had started to become worse for him.

The employee highlighted the point that relationship with Ahmed was founded at the time of the former General manger Pescheux, the manager of deals with contractors and armed groups.

The French CEO replied to his employees trying to calm him down, asking him to carry on coordination with the Islamic State and pay the money and added “you do not need to communicate with any other provider, and forward them to me in case of any problem.”

It seems that logistic and financial relationship between Lafarge and the Islamic State was at different levels, as the company besides buying fuel from ISIS, it had provided the Islamic State cement to sell in market, according to a notification stamped by the financial responsible in the Islamic state, ordering barriers to let the holder of the notification to enter Aleppo with the shipment, notifying to coordination between them and Lafarge company.

The notification mentioned the name of the driver, and his van's number besides the date of the permission and it was valid for one day only for single entry.

Our sources described the permission as a receipt with a serial number cut off a book of receipts.

Sources mentioned that the relationship between Lafarge and most of the armed group around the factory had been from long time ago and Jacob, the Norwegian risk manager and who managed the relationship with the Islamic State was the Jordanian young man Ahmed, who followed Jacob.

Sources mentioned that Ahmed’s Jordanian accent which was similar to Horan’s people’s accent, made most of people think he was a Syrian from Daraa.

Sources mentioned that all deals and problems between the armed groups the Lafarge Cement Syrian, were known by the main headquarter of the company in France, which was notified officially of what was happening by frequent messages.

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