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SYRIA

Lafarge bosses in French court over jihadist funding

Two senior executives at French-Swiss cement maker LafargeHolcim, including its former CEO, were charged on Friday over claims that top management turned a blind eye to payments to jihadists in Syria, a judicial source said.

Lafarge bosses in French court over jihadist funding
Photo: AFP

Lafarge is accused of paying the Islamic State group and other militants through a middleman between 2013 and 2014 so that the company's factory in Jalabiya, northern Syria, could continue to operate despite the war.

Four people had already been charged over the case.

At Friday's hearings in Paris, Bruno Lafont, chief executive from 2007 to 2015, and the group's former Syria chief Christian Herrault, appeared in court and were charged with “financing a terrorist organisation and “endangering the lives of others” and remanded in custody.

On Thursday Eric Olsen, who took over from Lafont as CEO after the company merged with Switzerland's Holcim,  was charged with the same crimes.

The three men have been in detention since Wednesday.

Three former officials at the Jalabiya factory were charged in the case last week.

Lafarge's Syrian subsidiary Lafarge Cement Syria (LCS) paid out some $5.6 million (4.7 million euros) between July 2012 and September 2014, according to a report commissioned by LafargeHolcim and seen by AFP.

Of this, more than half a million dollars went to Isis, according to the April report by US consultants Baker McKenzie.

Herrault acknowledged earlier this year that Lafarge was involved in a “racket”, adding that he kept Lafont “regularly informed”, according to the report.

But Lafont has denied that he knew what was happening, saying things had appeared to be “under control”.

LCS is also suspected of using fake consulting contracts to buy fuel from Isis, which took control of most of Syria's strategic oil reserves in June 2013.

The factory's former manager Frederic Jolibois, who is among those charged, has admitted to buying oil from “non-governmental organisations”, notably Kurdish and Islamist groups, in violation of the EU embargo declared in 2011.

Lafarge hung on in Syria for two years after most French companies had left as Isis made major territorial gains, most of which the jihadists have since lost.

Investigators are also trying to determine whether Lafarge failed to ensure the security of its Syrian staff who stayed behind after management left the country in the summer of 2012.

READ ALSO: French-Swiss cement maker made 'unacceptable errors' in Syria, says chairman

SYRIA

Swiss woman stands trial for attempting to join Islamic State

A 31-year-old woman from Winterthur who tried to travel to Syria to join Islamic State (IS) is standing trial under Swiss anti-terror laws.

Swiss woman stands trial for attempting to join Islamic State
The federal criminal court in Bellinzona. Photo: Swiss Confederation/OFCL

The alleged ‘jihadi tourist' appeared before Switzerland's federal criminal court in Bellinzona on Friday, the Swiss news agency SDA reported. 

In December 2015, the woman, accompanied by her four-year-old child, attempted to travel to Syria via Greece and Turkey in order to join IS, the authorities allege. 

Her intended destination was Raqqa, which was at the time an IS stronghold in Syria.

The woman was prevented from continuing her journey by the Greek authorities and was arrested at Zurich airport on her return to Switzerland in January 2016. 

The Swiss attorney general's office filed an indictment against the Swiss national for offences under the federal law that bans terror groups including Isis. 

According to the indictment, the woman radicalized herself through internet propaganda after converting to Islam in 2009.

It says the Swiss national believed it was the duty of all Muslims to support IS.

She said she rejected western values.

This is only the second case concerning a so-called ‘jihadi tourist' to go before Switzerland's federal criminal court. 

The first prosecution of its kind took place in 2016, when a 26-year-old man was found guilty of attempting to travel to join Isis and given an 18-month suspended jail sentence.

Islamic State has been banned in Switzerland since 2014.