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French investigators have put three people under investigation as part of an inquiry into allegations LafargeHolcim, the Swiss-French cement company, helped finance terrorism in Syria, according to a judicial source.
Two of the people being investigated are former executives of the company in Syria, while the third is a former head of security for Lafarge who still works for the company, according to a person familiar with the case.
The investigation of the three individuals marks the latest development in a scandal that has already led to the exit of the chief executive of LafargeHolcim, which was formed in 2015 as the result of a €41bn merger between France’s Lafarge and Switzerland’s Holcim.
It centres on a Lafarge cement plant that the company kept running as Syria descended into civil war. The facility was eventually evacuated in September 2014.
In May LafargeHolcim 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.
Eric Olsen, LafargeHolcim’s chief executive, 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. The group’s new chief executive is Jan Jenisch, who joined in October from Swiss chemicals group Sika.
The two former executives who have been placed under investigation are Bruno Pescheux, director of Lafarge’s Syrian subsidiary between 2008 and 2014, and his successor, Frédéric Jolibois.
The third individual is Jean-Claude Veillard, former head of security at Lafarge who still works at the company.
Lawyers for the three men could not be reached for comment by the FT. However, Reuters reported that lawyers for two of the men said on Friday that their clients denied any wrongdoing. A lawyer for the third person declined to comment. LafargeHolcim would not comment on an ongoing legal case.
The placing of suspects under formal investigation means that prosecutors believe they have “serious or consistent evidence” that could result in prosecution, according to French law. The investigation can still be dropped.