In September 2016, the French Minister of Finance filed a complaint before the Paris prosecutor against Lafarge-Holcim for its alleged illegal purchase of oil in Syria, despite the EU embargo issued in 2012. The Paris prosecutor opened an investigation in October 2016.
On 15 November 2016, eleven former Syrian employees and the human rights organizations Sherpa and the ECCHR filed a criminal complaint as civil parties in Paris against Lafarge, Lafarge Cement Syria, and their current and former CEOs, for financing of terrorism, complicity in crimes against humanity committed in Syria and for a series of grave labor law violations.
On 9 June 2017, three examining magistrates of the Paris Hight Court (Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris) started judicial investigation into the crimes alleged by the NGOs Sherpa and the ECCHR, and eleven former Syrian employees. In September 2017, three of the victims were heard by one of the examining magistrates.
On 13 October 2017, the plaintiffs filed a motion requesting that the examining magistrates summon a former French Minister of Foreign Affairs and two former ambassadors of France to Syria for questioning.
On 14 November 2017, French police searched the headquarters of Lafarge-Holcim in Paris. At the same time, the Belgian federal police searched the premises of Groupe Bruxelles Lambert (GBL), the second largest shareholder of Lafarge-Holcim, in Brussels.
In December 2017, six former CEOs and directors of Lafarge and Lafarge Cement Syria were indicted on charges of financing terrorism and deliberate endangerment of people’s lives, and some on the additional charge of breaching the EU embargo on Syrian oil – namely Eric Olsen and Bruno Lafont, former CEOs of Lafarge; Bruno Pescheux, CEO of the Lafarge Syrian subsidiary between 2008 and 2014; his successor, Frédéric Jolibois; Jean-Claude Veillard, Lafarge’s director of security ; and Christian Herrault, vice director at Lafarge. In March and May 2018, Lafarge’s human resources executive Sonia Artinian and former safety director at LCS, Jacob Waerness, were indicted on similar charges.
On 28 June 2018, three investigative judges of the Paris High Court charged the legal entity Lafarge SA (now LafargeHolcim) with complicity in crimes against humanity, fnancing of a terrorist enterprise, breaching an embargo, and endangering the lives of others. Lafarge allegedly paid millions of euros to ISIS and several armed groups to keep their cement factory running. The investigative judges ordered LafargeHolcim to hand over 30 million euros to the authorities as a security deposit ahead of a possible trial.
In June 2019, the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Court of Appeal declined the prosecution for complicity in crimes against humanity.