Experimental feature

Listen to this article



Experimental feature


French investigators have questioned former chief executive Eric Olsen and ex-Lafarge boss Bruno Lafont over allegations that LafargeHolcim, the Swiss-French cement company, helped finance terrorism in Syria, according to judicial sources familiar with the matter.

This marks an acceleration in a scandal that already led to the exit of Mr Olsen as chief executive of LafargeHolcim, which was formed two years ago as the result of a €41bn merger between France’s Lafarge and Switzerland’s Holcim.

A third individual questioned on Wednesday was a supervisor of Syrian operations, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. The individuals in question could not immediately be reached for comment.

Mr Olsen, who was appointed CEO of LafargeHolcim in 2015, stepped down in July of this year to try to draw a line under the controversy but said he had not been involved in any wrongdoing.

He was the highest-profile casualty of an internal investigation into a Lafarge plant the company kept running as Syria descended into civil war, although the group cleared him of any wrongdoing.

Mr Olsen is being investigated in his role of HR director at the time, said the person with knowledge of the matter. Mr Lafont was chief executive of Lafarge until 2015.

LafargeHolcim has previously admitted that “unacceptable measures” had been taken to keep the Syria plant running, including payments to intermediaries to avoid disruption by local armed groups.

The company added that “selected members of group management” were aware of possible violations of business conduct standards. Despite an internal investigation, the company has not yet said whether it believes funds ended up ultimately with militant group Isis.

A source close to the company said there was no indication the reported allegations were likely to have an material adverse financial impact on the group.

Last week, three other employees were brought in for questioning in France.

LafargeHolcim declined to comment on an ongoing legal matter.

Leave a Reply

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.