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Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco Delivers Remarks Announcing a Guilty Plea by Lafarge on Terrorism Charges


Brooklyn, NY
United States

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Breon, and thank you all for being here. 

Today’s guilty pleas to terrorism charges by multi-national construction conglomerate Lafarge SA and its Syrian subsidiary reflect corporate crime that reached a new low and a very dark place. 

For the first time ever, the United States has charged these companies with providing material support to terrorist organizations — in this case, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and the al-Nusrah Front (ANF).  

And for the first time, companies have pleaded guilty to supporting terrorist organizations, with Lafarge SA and its Syrian subsidiary facing criminal penalties of more than three-quarters of a billion dollars. 

Protecting national security by fighting international terrorism is mission-critical for the Department of Justice.

Fighting corporate crime is also a top Department priority. 

Today’s charges and guilty pleas should make clear: when companies and their executives engage in conduct that threatens our national security — in this case by fueling a violent terrorist organizations — the Department will respond with resolve.       

And this case also makes clear – business with terrorists cannot be business as usual.

Since returning to government, I have warned that companies are on the front lines in confronting today’s geopolitical realities. In today’s world, corporate crime regularly intersects with national security in areas like terrorist financing, sanctions evasion, and cybercrime.

Today, we see that intersection in its starkest form. Many of our cases expose corporate greed and corruption. But this time, corporate criminals joined hands with terrorists instead of corrupt government officials.

In its pursuit of profits, Lafarge and its top executives not only broke the law — they helped finance a violent reign of terror that ISIS and al-Nusrah imposed on the people of Syria.    

As reflected in today’s guilty pleas, for years, Lafarge operated a massive cement operation in northern Syria. In 2012, as the country descended into civil war, ISIS and al Nusrah gained control of the territory. 

Many companies made the right choice — the only lawful choice: to leave the region rather than join hands with the terrorists. Lafarge made a different decision: to go into business with ISIS and al-Nusrah — two of the world’s most notorious and brutal terrorist organizations.

Between August 2013 and October 2014, Lafarge capitalized on the Islamic State’s iron grip and violent control of Syria to stifle its competition and increase its market share.

Lafarge paid millions of dollars to both terrorist groups and benefited from their brutality to the tune of $70 million in revenue.

Lafarge also hid its partnership with these terrorists through a web of fake contracts, falsified invoices, corrupt intermediaries, and off-system email accounts.

As Deputy Attorney General and in my previous role as the President’s Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor, I have witnessed the unimaginable pain and suffering of American families whose loved ones were brutally murdered by ISIS.

In the summer of 2014, the world watched in horror as ISIS murdered innocent journalists and aid workers. That same summer, Lafarge was in business with ISIS, securing profits and market share and capitalizing on the group’s brutality.

Make no mistake: Lafarge and its leadership had every reason to know exactly with whom they were dealing — and they didn’t flinch. Instead, Lafarge forged ahead, working with ISIS to keep operations open, undercut competitors, and maximize revenue. And all the while, through their support and funding, Lafarge enabled the operations of a brutal terrorist organization.

As also reflected in today’s guilty pleas, in one email, Lafarge executives discussed how the company could “share the cake” with ISIS — with the “cake” a callous reference to the profits that Lafarge planned to reap from the illicit partnership.

When Lafarge’s partnership with ISIS came to a close, the defendants moved to cover their tracks — but the investigation uncovered the emails Lafarge executives tried to hide. 

Now, while the facts of this case may be extreme, they are instructive of the Department’s corporate crime priorities and what happens when companies and their executives make the wrong choices.

First, as I have emphasized before, individual accountability is a top priority. 

And while I cannot comment on any non-public DOJ prosecutions or investigations, what I can say is what is already in the public domain: French authorities have arrested many of the senior executives implicated in the scheme detailed today. This case is, thus, a good example of international law enforcement cooperation, with partners working independently, but in parallel, to bring about accountability and justice.

In a policy issued last month, I emphasized that companies who identify misconduct should voluntarily self-report and cooperate with the Department in a timely and proactive fashion. Lafarge did neither. 

We also emphasize that companies should have policies to enable retention and production of communications over third-party messaging systems. Lafarge did not. Nonetheless, thanks to the efforts and ingenuity of our agents and prosecutors, we were able to locate the inculpatory emails that Lafarge executives tried to hide off-system.

And we have also emphasized that companies engaged in mergers or acquisitions should promptly and properly address compliance issues. Here, the company that acquired Lafarge did not perform due diligence of Lafarge’s operations in Syria, despite the clear compliance risks posed by operations in the region. And it did nothing to investigate or address Lafarge’s illegal activities until they were publicly exposed.

We expect far more from companies, particularly those that operate in high-risk environments.

We expect investment in robust and well-resourced compliance programs, attention to national security compliance risks, and careful due diligence in connection with mergers and acquisitions.

We will reward voluntary self-disclosure of misconduct and proactive cooperation with government investigations. By doing so, we are sending a clear and unequivocal message: investing in compliance and promoting corporate responsibility is good business.

Before I turn the podium back over to Breon, I want to commend the tireless efforts of the investigators, prosecutors, and our international partners on this case.

It is because of their work and the work of all of the Department’s agents and prosecutors that I can make this final promise:

The Department of Justice will not rest and will not hesitate in our work to protect the American people, in our fight against international terrorism, and in our efforts to hold corporate wrongdoers accountable.  

Thank you.

Updated October 18, 2022