BY TONY FARINA
French cement maker Lafarge, which has several Western New York locations including Buffalo and Niagara Falls, entered into deals with armed groups in Syria, including the Islamic State, to protect its business interests in the country, according to the French daily newspaper Le Monde.
According to Le Monde in a story published earlier this month, Lafarge paid taxes to the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in 2013-2014 to continue its cement operations in Syria.
Lafarge, identified as the world’s largest building materials company, supplies construction materials including cement, aggregates and concrete for residential, commercial, and public works properties.
The Le Monde story, which is making international headlines and was brought to our attention by a local web surfer, said Lafarge paid terrorists to allow workers at its cement plant to arrive and leave the factory. The plant was shut down in 2014 after Daesh militants had advance toward it, according to published reports.
he French newspaper reported that it had seen letters sent by Lafarge managers in Syria which revealed “arrangements that Lafarge made with the terror group to continue production until September 19, 2014.” There are reports that the abandoned cement plant in Syria is now a base for Western special forces.
The company has said its priority has “always been ensuring the safety and security of its staff,” and purchased the Syrian site in 2007 before beginning operations there in 2011.
We contacted the Lafarge facility on Ohio St. in Buffalo, and asked for comment on the newspaper reports of Lafarge doing business with terrorists, but a spokesman said he would have no comment but said he would refer our request to higher authority. As of press time, we had received no response.
There are at least several listings for Lafarge concrete in the Buffalo area: Pineview Dr. and Northpointe Pkwy. in Buffalo; River Rd. in Tonawanda; Hinman Rd. in Lockport; and New Rd. in Niagara Falls. There may be more facilities.
A French court is now reportedly deciding whether Lafarge’s funding of Daesh terrorists in Syria was an emergency or whether it could be seen as activity aimed at financing a terrorist organization which is punishable by law.