Cement manufacturer convicted of terrorist financing by DOJ

On 18 October 2022, a global building materials manufacturer and its subsidiary pleaded guilty in an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) to have conspired to provide material support and resources in Northern Syria from 2013 to 2014 to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and the al-Nusrah Front (ANF) – both designated foreign terrorist organizations in several legislations. Immediately following the defendants’ guilty pleas, a U.S. District Judge sentenced the undertakings to terms of probation and to pay financial penalties, including criminal fines and forfeiture, totalling USD 777,78 million.

According to the DoJ’s press release, the undertaking, headquartered in Paris, France, and its subsidiary, headquartered in Damascus, Syria, schemed to pay ISIS and ANF in exchange for the permission to operate a cement plant in Syria from 2013 to 2014, which enabled the Syrian subsidiary to obtain approximately USD 70,3 million in revenue. The DoJ emphasised, that this was the first time an undertaking in the U.S. has pleaded guilty to supporting terrorists. The undertaking said it regretted the incidents and took responsibility for the executives involved.

However, there is an even more interesting issue given that the 52 pages statement of facts contains just two sentences regarding a purported U.S. nexus in connection with the underlying conduct. Regardless of the underlying conduct, a recently published articleraises the question whether there is actually a U.S. interest in such an enforcement action particularly since French law enforcement previously brought an enforcement action against the entities based on the same core conduct. The article therefore sheds light on the aspects of the case that have led to a U.S. nexus.

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