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Middle East

Lafarge HR boss charged over payments to Syrian jihadists

media A Lafarge office in Paris in 2014 AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE

A former head of human resources for French cement-maker Lafarge has been charged with endangering the lives of the company's Syrian employees in an ongoing investigation into payments to rebel movements, including the Islamic State (IS) armed group.

Sonia Artinian, who was human resources boss at Lafarge from September 2013 and July 2015, was charged with "endangering other people's lives" but not with financing terrorism, as several of her colleagues have been, it was reported at the weekend.

But she has been cited as an "assisted witness" on that question, leaving prosecutors free to charge her at a later date.

Former Lafarge CEO Bruno Lafont and deputy director Christian Herrault, who was responsible for Syria, are among six executives have been charged on both counts.

Between July 2012 and September 2014, Lafarge's Syrian arm paid 6.5 million euros to rebel groups, including about 600,000 euros to IS, to keep its factory in Syrian open, according to a report commissioned by the company from US firm Baker MacKenzie.

The investigation is trying to establish if company headquarters in Paris and the French foreign affairs ministry knew of the payments.

Artinian took over from Eric Olsen, who went on to become the CEO of LafargeHolcim when the French company merged with Switzerland's Holcim in 2015.

Olsen has also been charged.

Part of Artinian's job was to chair a monthly "security committee" but claims that nobody had to report on the situation in Syria to her.

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