French firm admits payments to Islamic State group in US court

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NEW YORK — French cement company Lafarge on Tuesday pleaded guilty to paying millions of dollars to the Islamic State group to allow a plant in Syria to remain open, a case the Justice Department said was the first of its kind.

The company agreed to pay approximately $91 million in penalties and forfeit an additional $687 million for a total penalty of approximately $778 million.

Prosecutors accused the company of ignoring the militant group’s behavior and paying them at a time when it was complicit in torturing kidnapped Westerners.

“The defendants forwarded nearly $6 million in illegal payments to two of the world’s most notorious terrorist organizations — ISIS and the Al-Nusrah Front in Syria — at a time when these groups were brutalizing innocent civilians in Syria and actively plotting to Harming Americans,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen, the Justice Department’s top national security official, said in a statement.

“There is simply no justification for a multinational to authorize payments to designated terrorist organizations,” he added.

The charges were announced by federal prosecutors in New York City and senior Justice Department officials in Washington.

The allegations relate to behavior previously investigated by authorities in France.

The Islamic State group is abbreviated as IS and has been referred to as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

Tucker reported from Washington.

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