Justice Investigation

A French firm, terrorists and a frog: the secrets behind cement giant Lafarge's Syrian downfall

How did a major French multinational company, through sheer greed, end up financing Islamic terrorism so that it could keep its expensive cement factory open in Syria? What did the French secret services know about this arrangement? With the help of previously-unseen documents, Mediapart has been able to piece together the background to the scandal involving Lafarge and the story of its massive cement plant close to the Syrian-Turkish border. Fabrice Arfi and Matthieu Suc report.

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In the beginning was the frog. On July 26th 2012 Christian Herrault, deputy general operating manager at the world's leading cement firm, French multinational Lafarge, sent an email to two members of staff. In the email's subject line was the word “Syria”. These were desperate times in that country. It had fallen into civil war and the French embassy had closed its doors in the Syrian capital Damascus some five months earlier.

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