U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District Breon Peace, right, at...

U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District Breon Peace, right, at a news conference in Brooklyn on Tuesday. Credit: Craig Ruttle

A major overseas cement and building materials company pleaded guilty Tuesday in Brooklyn federal court to charges it paid nearly $6 million to ISIS and another terror group to operate in a Syrian war zone, federal officials said.

Along with a guilty plea to one count in a criminal information document of conspiring to give material support to terrorist organizations, LaFarge S.A. a company headquartered in France and its subsidiary, LaFarge Cement Syria, S.A., agreed to pay more than $777 million in fines and criminal forfeitures, officials said. No individuals faced charges.

Brooklyn federal judge William Kuntz II sentenced LaFarge to probation and assessed fines at $98 million and a forfeiture amount of $687 million. The amount is said to have been an unprecedented penalty, according to U.S. officials.

“In the midst of a civil war, LaFarge made the unthinkable choice to put money in the hands of ISIS, one of the world’s most barbaric terrorist organizations, so that it could continue selling cement, “ Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement.

Federal officials said payments were also funneled to the group, Al-Nusrah Front, another U.S. designated terrorist organization.

According to federal investigators, the payments were made from 2010 to 2014 when LaFarge operated a cement plant in the northern area of Syria, a country wracked by a long standing civil war. The company and its local subsidiary made the payments, described as “donations,” to the terror groups to assure that its employees, customer and suppliers could pass through checkpoints set up the terrorists, investigators said. The conspiracy charge covered conduct from 2013 to 2014.

“We have to maintain the principle that we are ready to share the ‘cake,’ if there is a ‘cake,’ ” one LaFarge official said in an apparent attempt at the time to justify the payments to other company officials in Syria, federal officials noted.

In this photograph taken on January 6, 2010, a French...

In this photograph taken on January 6, 2010, a French worker adjusts machinery on a cement mixing truck at a processing plant of Lafarge in Paris, the world's largest cement maker. Credit: AFP via Getty Images/JACQUES DEMARTHON

By operating the cement plant while paying the terror groups in Syria, LaFarge is said by federal officials to have amassed more than $70 million in revenues.

At a joint news conference with Peace and other officials, U.S. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco noted that LaFarge partnered with ISIS and Al-Nusrah Front as a way of increasing profits and gaining increased market share.

“This case sends the clear message to all companies, but especially those operating in high-risk environments, to invest in robust compliance programs, pay vigilant attention to national security compliance risks, and conduct careful due diligence in mergers and acquisitions,” Monaco said in a prepared statement issued later in the day.

In a statement, the Holcim Group, the Switzerland-based parent of LaFarge, said it disclosed the nature of the illicit payments in 2017 after an internal investigation prompted by news reports. Holcim said the conduct that served as the basis for the charges took place before it acquired LaFarge in 2015.

The federal investigation determined that LaFarge officials concealed their conduct from external auditors and kept it from Holcim officials both before and after the acquisition, Hoclim spokeswoman Anne Schlatter said in a statement to Newsday. She added that all of the LaFarge officials involved had “separated” from the company.

In a lengthy statement Holcim officials noted that none of conduct in the conspiracy involved any LaFarge employees in the United States. The company said that federal officials had determined that Holcim had effective compliance controls set up to prevent a reoccurrence of such criminal conduct and that the appointment of an independent compliance monitor was not necessary.

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