by Ramin Mazaheri
That headline leaves out the biggest bombshell: Per court testimony leaked in September, France’s Foreign Ministry knew all about Lafarge’s collaboration with terrorists in Syria and repeatedly encouraged them to do so.
Many are assuming that future court inquiries will discover that the France’s Foreign Ministry and national spy services provided more than just moral support.
Since the story broke in June 2016 the story just gets more and more shocking: From 2010 to 2014 France’s Lafarge Construction collaborated with Al-Qaeda, ISIL and other terrorist groups at Lafarge’s concrete plant in Northern Syria. Lafarge, which merged with Swiss Holcim in 2015, is the largest manufacturer of building materials in the world, and one of France’s largest companies.
Several Lafarge officials testified that the French Foreign Ministry was in constant contact with Lafarge during their dealings with the terrorists. The Ministry knew that Lafarge was giving hundreds of thousands of euros in bribes and taxes to terrorists every month in order to keep the concrete churning. The Ministry pushed Lafarge to stay, and they never told Lafarge to evacuate despite kidnappings of Lafarge employees, which caused Lafarge to pay terrorists hundreds of thousands of euros in ransoms and…this is all we know about so far.
Here are the two main leaked quotes from Lafarge officials you need to know (from Le Monde):
“That’s not what Quai d’Orsay (the French Foreign ministry) said. They said that we had to hold on, and that everything would work out….The French government strongly pushed us to stay, because it was the biggest French investment in Syria and because it represented the French flag. So yes (Lafarge CEO) Bruno Lafont said: ‘We are staying.’” – Christian Herrault, Lafarge Executive
“We went to see – every six months – the French ambassador for Syria (in Paris), and nobody told us: ‘Now, you have to leave the plant.’” – Bruno Pescheux, Director of Lafarge Syria
But we all know the capitalist corporations have no ethics: they sell themselves to the highest bidder, and the only rule is to increase their profit margins as high as possible and by any means they can get away with.
So Lafarge…who really cares about them? But the leaked testimony is concrete proof (literally) that the French state worked with terrorists in a non-military, nation-building capacity in Syria.
The twin goals of Lafarge and the French state were multiple, even if not all are yet admitted: to build infrastructure which the terrorists needed to win the war, to provide them with steady funding streams via taxes, bribes and payoffs for oil and the other raw materials required in the concrete-making process, to ensure that Lafarge would be primed to dominate the Syrian market in the lucrative reconstruction effort, and to increase profits of the French shareholders.
From Lafarge’s point of view: The built a brand-new plant in Syria in 2010 and they didn’t want to lose all that sunk money, and Al-Nusra’s money was green, too, so what’s the problem? When they story broke they tried to blame it all on their Syrian management, but there was too much proof that their top guys at HQ knew about it. Their CEO even had to step down over it in April.
The collaboration only came to an end when ISIL occupied the plant in 2014, taking everyone hostage. The workers – oh la – how’d you like to work with terrorists as your boss? Murder, kidnapping, violence – it must have been terrible for them. Don’t worry for Lafarge – the plant is currently in the “safe hands” of Western special forces. I’m sure the WTO will force the Assad administration to pay top dollar to get it back one day….
But there seems to be no doubt that the collaboration continued even after 2014: The terrorists emptied the silos of all the manufactured cement, but Lafarge was the only with the access codes, thus further complicity seems proven.
The case only came to light thanks to an NGO called Sherpa, which examines the illegal financing of corporations, joined with a group of former Syria plant workers in order to make Lafarge the first multinational company to be sued for war crimes, illegal financing of terrorism and crimes against humanity.
So, this is all totally despicable…and it was all pushed for by the French state.
We know that France funds terrorists with weapons and cares nothing for multinational embargos in Syria, Libya or elsewhere, but this case shows how France supplies them with funds, and also how capitalism is intertwined with terrorism. Remember: if the Syrian terrorists had won, Lafarge would have been “heroes”.
But thanks God the terrorists did not win in Syria, with thanks as well to Hezbollah, Iran, Russia and the Syrian soldier, whom the Saker superbly chose as his “Man of the Year – 2013”.
So instead of a nightmare scenario for the Middle East, this is a nightmare for France. It is indeed a “ticking time bomb” for the French government, in a hastily-changed headline from French state media France 24. The MSM, both French and English, keep focusing almost-totally on the role of Lafarge instead of the French state, whose role is consistently bumped down to the last paragraph (when it is mentioned at all).
In fact this is already a very real bomb: About a ¼ kilometer from where I live, right on the northern border of Paris, there is a Lafarge plant. In October, six homemade petrol bombs were discovered at the plant by workers, and a terrorist case was opened (I had wondered what all those helicopters were for?) Obviously, some group wants revenge for Lafarge for their role in Syria.
The MSM will definitely have to focus on the French state’s role soon, as the NGO leading the court case has demanded that France’s longtime foreign minister Laurent Fabius be forced to testify.
Will indictments be handed down to French state officials like Fabius? God I hope so. The first indictments were just handed down to 3 Lafarge officials for financing terrorism, violating EU embargos and “endangering the lives of others”.
And following those indictments new Lafarge CEO Beat Hess made a stunning admission to French media: He said that the company is “going through a difficult time” right now.
Wow, I’m really sorry to hear that – it just breaks my heart.
I am really just so filled with compassion for poor Beat Hess and those poor souls at Lafarge that I just can’t write seriously on this issue any longer – Hess has made me so emotional!
So, I’m going to step aside to compose myself, but I encourage you to seek out other sources on this scandal.
And I do want to pass on this unpublished part of the interview between Beat Hess and the French media. I cannot explain why this section was not included, but perhaps you can figure it out?
Leaked interview between Lafarge CEO and unnamed French Journalist
French journalist: You said that Lafarge “is going through a tough time” – can you please explain that a little bit further?
Lafarge CEO Beat Hess: Well, it’s always a bit depressing to be caught committing crimes – it inspires a real soul-searching. But it’s especially depressing because we thought we had gotten away with it for so many years.
French journalist: How bad do you think it will get for Lafarge, and is there anything I can do to help?
Lafarge CEO Beat Hess: Well that’s very nice of you, but the judges will only give us a small fine. The judges are French and not Syrian, after all. I have faith that our judges realize that they’d just be penalizing our innocent shareholders – such as me. Maybe one of our management team will have to go to jail for bit – but only somebody from our Syrian management team. This is what I meant when I said that I have “full confidence” in the French legal system.
French journalist: So you must be quite disappointed over all this?
Lafarge CEO Beat Hess: It’s extremely disappointing! I can’t tell you high our hopes were when ISIL came along – the sky was really the limit for our Syria operations. We were positioned to rule the concrete market in their Caliphate. So, I ask those who would throw the first stone at Lafarge’s house of concrete: Isn’t our dashed dream of Syrian market domination enough? I think so, and my friends have all said that they agree with me.
French journalist: So the fall of ISIL has really caused management morale to plummet?
Lafarge CEO Beat Hess: And we already had to pick ourselves up after the loss of our beloved Al-Nusra! They were really great guys. People don’t realize that we are not just cold businessmen: we have personal relationships with our employees. In 2015 when Laurent Fabius (Francois Hollande’s longtime foreign minister) said Al-Nusra was “doing some good things on the ground” he was obviously talking about our concrete plant. After all, our profits were through the roof! And some Syrians took him to court for “supporting terrorism speech” for saying that…but what they don’t realize is that France only prosecutes brown-skinned people for that charge.
French journalist: As they are correct to do, of course. So who made better colleagues: Al-Nusra or ISIL?
Lafarge CEO Beat Hess: An interesting question…well, all employees have different strengths and weaknesses, of course. But you just can’t beat ISIL’s dedication: I remember when some poor local plant worker fell into one of the concrete mixers – ISIL told everyone that he was just doing his part to help build the Caliphate. I’m sure that really boosted their morale. Frankly, I hope (French President Emmanuel) Macron is able to finally get our French workers to show such dedication. France can be a lot better than just the world’s fifth-largest economy if we would not be so ethnocentric and would take some management tips from our ISIL colleagues. I gave the ISIL management a well-earned a bonus for how they handled that episode, and they told me that the workers’ family was “taken care of” as well. Lafarge is just a big family business, after all!
French journalist: How do you respond when your Syria workers said they were forced to collaborate with terrorists? Is that a fair criticism?
Lafarge CEO Beat Hess: It’s the upper boss who picks the lower boss – about that there can be no question, or else the entire Western cultural system crumbles. Frankly, I have also had some very bad bosses…but you don’t see me filing a lawsuit with the European Court of Human Rights like these guys did!
French journalist: But I wonder if a worker dying in a cement mixer wouldn’t run afoul of French regulations?
Lafarge CEO Beat Hess: Is this some kind of “gotcha journalism”? Because you keep focusing on that one incident – why don’t you focus on the other incidents where terrorists killed workers at our plant but Lafarge plant equipment was totally innocent? Huh?!
French journalist: Please excuse me…uh…I think occurrences like that are actually now not covered, thanks to Macron’s decree reducing the French labor code.
Lafarge CEO Beat Hess: ISIL’s growth rates were just spectacular over a year or two, remember? And do you think it’s because ISIL let worker safety regulations get in the way of production targets? Thankfully they didn’t, and that’s why our Northern Syria’s plant output was among our best in the world. For that we proudly sent them a plaque!
French journalist: But it seems that Lafarge and the French Foreign Ministry kept the plant running even though it was causing the local population “a lot of evil”.
Lafarge CEO Beat Hess: First of all, a lot of the local workers brought problems on themselves by constantly trying to run away. That cost them their Christmas bonuses one year. We had no choice but to keep those for ourselves, of course. Secondly, as a proud French patriot I completely support our efforts to achieve the end goal of the terrorists – regime change: if that caused the locals “evil”, well then those locals deserve it for supporting their democratically-elected government instead of ISIL. We have finally admitted that we had regular contact with the Foreign Ministry – they kept hammering this point home! So let’s just trust them, because they are the ones who know politics – I just know concrete.
French journalist: But back to the “tough time” – was it tough to work with people like ISIL?
Lafarge CEO Beat Hess: What’s tough is trying to find better middle managers! Thanks to the terrorists I had a lot more free time on my hands to live “the Parisian dream”: drinking, eating and cheating on my wife. What people don’t realize is that working with ISIL was dangerous and actually did cause me a lot of pain – all that rich food and wine gave me gout. Also, my wife found out about my affairs, and she really embarrassed me by insisting that she conduct her own extramarital liaisons…and without including me! This led to the other “rich man’s disease” – alimony, because she eventually divorced me. If you only knew the pain I suffer every month due to what I have to hand over to her every month – thanks to our damn socialist alimony laws. And where’s my leaked testimony talking about that?!
French journalist: But surely you have kept some of your profits from working with ISIL?
Lafarge Official: People don’t want to believe that more money equals more problems. I didn’t have time to check out how ISIL was running our Syria plant because I spent so much time finding places to store the profits that plant made. Do you know how much paperwork there is for the Isle of Man, Jersey or the state of Delaware? They are such a headache! I should have just kept our profits in France…that’s obviously a joke! Maybe Luxembourg though….
French journalist: But didn’t you know what type of group ISIL was?
Lafarge CEO Beat Hess: People have to realize that ISIL was a totally new phenomenon in 2014, and aren’t people always telling us to be more open-minded with foreign cultures? That’s what Western moral relativism is about, right? We had to give them a chance. Anyway, our lawyers said that ISIL can be considered just another type of “popular, grassroots group”. Frankly, I wondered if we were turning into socialists.
French journalist: I think it’s great that Lafarge’s CEO has come out to talk about their “difficult time”. It’s our job as the media to make sure our readers are sympathetic to everyone, especially people like you.
Lafarge CEO Beat Hess: I appreciate that, because we truly put our heart and soul into our concrete…and to see that our concrete is being used for the Syrian People instead of the people of the Caliphate is really distressing for us! And, please – make sure to give the officials of the French Foreign Ministry the same treatment.
French journalist: Undoubtedly – they were promoting “French values”, after all, and how can that be wrong? But do you think this is just another frivolous lawsuit caused by workers taking advantage of overly-generous French workers’ rights laws?
Lafarge CEO Beat Hess: The fact that our Syrian workers are suing us is a betrayal, and it’s been very difficult for us to accept. After all, we taught them so many skills: hostage negotiation, working under pressure, how to work with difficult colleagues, how to evade gunfire, etc. But instead of leveraging these new skills into new jobs they are trying to hold us hostage! Frankly, it’s those workers who are the terrorists, and not the terrorists!
French journalist: Do you think Lafarge will recover from this scandal?
Lafarge CEO Beat Hess: I think that if we can bounce back from building for the Nazis – which helped us get to where we are today – we can bounce back from this. It’s not like the terrorists are Nazis!
French journalist: No, because the Nazis killed West Europeans, so that makes them far, far worse, obviously. We won’t tolerate any such comparisons!
Lafarge CEO Beat Hess: That would also make the entire Western cultural system crumble.
French journalist: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us.
Lafarge CEO Beat Hess: This was all off the record, right?
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television. He can be reached on Facebook.