The world's largest maker of building materials, LafargeHolcim, admitted it was engaged in "unacceptable" practices at one of its now closed plants in Syria. The announcement came after a thorough internal probe.
Lafarge said Thursday it paid protection money to extremists in Syria to keep one of its plants there running.
Before the France-based company merged with the Swiss Holcim Group in 2015, it had operated a cement factory in Jalabiya in northern Syria until 2014, supplying a third of the country's market.
Various armed groups sought control of the area in the course of the war, and Lafarge admitted to paying intermediaries to work out deals with several extremists, including groups covered by sanctions, to ensure safe passage for employees and continued operation at the plant.
"In hindsight, the measures required to ensure operations at the plant were unacceptable," LafargeHolcim said in a statement, promising it would strengthen its efforts to meet business ethics standards.
The dealings in question took place in 2013 when the deterioration of the political situation in Syria posed difficult challenges for the company.
Lafarge was also suspected of sourcing oil locally to operate the factory in defiance of a 2012 EU ban on purchases of Syrian oil.
hg/jd (dpa, AFP)