French-Swiss firm allegedly bribed Islamic State to keep its factory working in Syria

LafargeHolcimThe world’s largest building materials manufacturer, LafargeHolcim, which is headquartered in France and Switzerland, allegedly bribed the Islamic State to keep its factory working in Syria, according to court witnesses. The company specializes in the manufacture of building materials such as cement, concrete and various byproducts. It was formed in 2015 by a merger of France-based Lafarge and Swiss-based Holcim, and currently employs an estimated 120,000 employees in nearly 100 countries around the world.

In 2011, soon after the Syrian Civil War broke out, various militant groups began operating in the area around one of LafargeHolcim’s plants, located in in north-central Syria, 10 miles south of the Syrian-Turkish border. In June of 2016, French newspaper Le Monde published allegations that LafargeHolcim’s subsidiary, Lafarge Cement Syria (LCS), which owns the plant, bribed various militias to stay away from its factory. According to the paper, at least €20,000 (approximately $24,000) went to the Islamic State, which eventually conquered the area around the LafargeHolcim plant. The article further claimed that LCS managers in Syria sent detailed emails to LafargeHolcim executives in Europe about their dealings with various militias, including the Islamic State. LafargeHolcim approved the use of funds to bribe the militias, said Le Monde, in order to allow the factory to remain operational and to avoid having their employees taken hostage.

The newspaper’s allegations prompted the Office of the Public Prosecutor in Paris to launch a preliminary investigation in October of the same year. Eventually, an official complaint was filed by the French Ministry of Finance, which argued that the activities of LCS may have constituted illicit financial relations between a French-owned company and a terrorist group. An official investigation was opened in June of 2017 into whether LafargeHolcim illegally financed terrorist groups through its subsidiaries, Lafarge and LCS. Investigators are also examining claims that the company presented the French government with forged accounting documents in order to hide the bribes it gave to various Syrian armed groups.

Last week, investigators heard from the first time from witnesses, three of whom were LCS employees in 2014, when the company first made contact with Islamic State militants. They allegedly told prosecutors that the French-Swiss company paid approximately $20,000 a month to various armed groups, including al-Qaeda, al-Nusra Front, and the Islamic State. Prosecutors did not discuss details about the witnesses’ testimonies, but Le Monde said it spoke to individuals with direct knowledge of the investigation, who said that the witnesses’ testimonies were particularly damning for LafargeHolcim. The probe continues.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 25 September 2017 | Permalink

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Malaysia immigration probe reveals growing insider threat to passport security

Datuk Seri Sakib KusmiAs many as 100 Malaysian immigration officers are implicated in a widening investigation involving the deliberate sabotage of the country’s electronic passport control system. The investigation, which began over three months ago, focuses on a criminal ring of immigration personnel at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), one of Southeast Asia’s major travel hubs. Reports suggest that 15 members of the alleged ring are in prison awaiting trial. Another 14 immigration officers have been suspended without pay, while 20 more staff members are under investigation by the intelligence subdivision of the Immigration Department of Malysia (IDM). On Wednesday, IDM Director-General Datuk Seri Sakib Kusmi said that the scope of the investigation had widened, and that 63 immigration officers would be transferred from the IDM’s headquarters in Putrajaya to KLIA, to replace members or suspected members of the criminal ring.

The officers implicated in the investigation are accused of deliberately sabotaging the automated passport control system used at KLIA. Known as myIMMs, the system allows passport control officers to validate the authenticity of international travelers’ passports, and to confirm that the latter have not been reported lost or stolen. It is believed that the myIMMs system was deliberately made to crash at least once a day, in order to allow human traffickers and other organized criminals to smuggle individuals in and out of Malaysia. With the system going offline, KLIA passport control officers were forced to screen passengers manually, which is now believed to have permitted countless individuals using forged and stolen passports to go through security undetected. The deliberate sabotage of myIMMs is believed to have been going on since 2010, and investigators are at a loss in trying to estimate the numbers of people who have been able to bypass computerized passport checks.

One investigator said Australia’s ABC news network that the criminal ring’s handlers were located overseas and would send immigration officers instructions via coded messages. The primary ring members had recruited IDM administrative staff, technology staff, and even software vendors, who were involved in sabotaging the system. The practice of organized criminal and terrorist groups using forged passports is both long and documented. But news of a criminal group that is able to set up an extensive ring of immigration officers, who then sabotage an electronic passport verification system at a major international transport hub, is rare and extremely alarming. It reveals a new form of insider threat, namely compromised immigration and passport control officers, who are bribed to facilitate the work of criminal groups and terrorist organizations.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 03 June 2016 | Permalink

Australian spies use paid informants abroad to stop human smuggling

ASISAustralian law enforcement and intelligence agencies routinely use paid informants in Indonesia and Pakistan as part of a decade-old covert war against human traffickers in the Indian Ocean. This information has been revealed by The Australian newspaper in response to reports 1 last week that Australian authorities paid traffickers to turn around a boat transporting asylum-seekers to the country. After the reports came out, many members of the opposition Australian Labor Party blasted the government for bribing human traffickers, and calling the practice “disgraceful” and “unsustainable”. But new information published on Monday shows that, when the Labor Party was in government, it instructed the country’s law enforcement and intelligence agencies to recruit and pay informants from within the human-trafficking networks abroad.

According 2 to The Australian, the use of paid informants is part of a wider secret war between the Australian intelligence and security agencies and the trafficking networks, which began in 2001. This “covert war”, said the paper, is meant to identify the structure and operations of human-trafficking syndicates and stop the constant flow of tens of thousands of asylum-seekers to Australia. According to the paper, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) was the first Australian government agency to begin the practice. It was followed in 2005 by the Australian Federal Police, which also began stationing officers abroad and tasking them with running networks of informants. In 2009, ASIS received $21 million (US$16.5 million) from the Australian government to develop networks of agents in several countries where large human-smuggling cartels are known to operate. The agency used the funds to station officers in several Indonesian cities, as well as in Pakistani capital Islamabad, where it operates in coordination with the Federal Investigations Agency of Pakistan’s Ministry of the Interior.

The Australian quoted an unnamed Australian intelligence official who had access to the intelligence reports from the ASIS anti-smuggling operations. He told the paper that the use of informants who are members of smuggling gangs was the only effective way of eventually “collapsing these networks”. Meanwhile, the government of Australia has refused comment on the allegations of bribing human smugglers.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 17 June 2015 | Permalink: https://intelnews.org/2015/06/17/01-1716/


  1. B. LAGAN “Australia accused of bribing smugglers to take refugees away” The Times [13jun2015] 
  2. C. STEWART “Spies, police have paid Indonesian informers for years” The Australian [16jun2015] 

CIA bankrolling Afghan government officials ‘on a vast scale’

AfghanistanBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has delivered “tens of millions of dollars [in] off-the-books cash” to Afghanistan’s governing elite, but there is little evidence that such bribes have helped promote Washington’s interests in the country, according to a new exposé published over the weekend in The New York Times. The paper cites “current and former advisers to the Afghan leader” Hamid Karzai, who allege that, for over a decade, the CIA has secretly delivered to the presidential palace in Afghan capital Kabul monthly payments ranging “from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars”. According to Khalil Roman, who was President Karzai’s Chief of Staff for four years until 2005, Afghan officials called the CIA funds “ghost money” because “it came in secret [and] left in secret”. The article suggests that the cash given to the Afghan government appears to be handled outside the CIA’s standard financial assistance programs, which are typically subject to restrictions and oversight from administrators both inside and outside the Agency. Some American officials, who spoke to The Times on condition of anonymity, said the CIA’s goal in funding the inner circle of the Afghan government is to maintain access to its members and to “guarantee the Agency’s influence at the presidential palace”. But there is little evidence that the funds, which are handled exclusively by a “small clique at [Afghanistan’s] National Security Council” have bought the CIA the political influence it seeks. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #550

Sukhoi-27 jets

Sukhoi-27 jets

►►Chinese fighters chased US spy plane into Taiwan. It has been revealed that, late last June, The Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense sent two F-16 fighters to intercept a two Chinese Sukhoi-27 jets that crossed into its airspace, while pursuing an American U-2 reconnaissance plane. It was the first time that Chinese jets breached Taiwan’s airspace since 1999. The Pentagon declined to confirm the report, but some in Washington must have had flashbacks of the 2001 Hainan Island incident.
►►Israel arrests four of its soldiers for sabotaging spy gear. This story is interesting on numerous levels: according to a statement by the IDF’s Northern Command, Israeli military authorities plan to prosecute four Israeli female soldiers for repeatedly shutting off unspecified surveillance equipment designed to collect intelligence from neighboring Lebanon. When faced with the accusations, the soldiers apparently told their commanders that “they worked under very difficult conditions and couldn’t bear the pressure”.
►►Turkish national convicted for spying in Ukraine. Ukrainian prosecutors say Read more of this post

News you may have missed #421 (‘not news’ edition)

  • Not news: Senior Afghan officials on CIA payroll. The New York Times‘ Mark Mazzetti and Dexter Filkins are right to air this story, but the real news here is the media industry’s collective gasp of fake shock and horror. Really?
  • Not news: Pentagon breached by foreign hacker. US Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn has disclosed that an undisclosed foreign spy agency carried out a serious cyberattack on US military networks with the help of a tainted flash drive that was inserted into a laptop in the Middle East. Ah, the old memory-stick gift trick
  • Not news: Sex-obsessed coverage of Russian espionage continues. Russian and US media keep avoiding serious analysis of post-Cold-War Russian intelligence operations by focusing on Anna Chapman. This is no surprise, since pursuing the real story behind Russian deep-cover espionage in the United States takes hard work.>response to Le Carre’s comments.

Did Blackwater bribe Iraqi officials after 2007 shooting?

Blackwater logo

Blackwater logo

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The US-based private security company Blackwater is under investigation by the US State Department, which suspects the corporation of having bribed Iraqi officials, in order to gain permission to continue to operate in Iraq, after the 2007 Nisour Square massacre. The company’s license to operate in Iraq was revoked by the Iraqi government on September 17, 2007, a day after trigger-happy Blackwater guards indiscriminately opened fire in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, killing 17 civilians, including women and children. But information obtained by The New York Times shows that the company hired well-connected Iraqi lawyers, and may have tried to buy off Iraqi lawmakers, in order to regain the right to operate on Iraqi soil. Read more of this post