Norwegian citizen connected to French firm who paid off Islamic State arrested for terrorist financing
French police have arrested a 40-year-old Norwegian man on charges of financing terrorism after he is believed to have helped pay off the Islamic State terror group for French concrete giant Lafarge, who were operating in Syria.
The 40-year-old worked as a security director at the cement factory opened in Northern Syria by Lafarge in 2011, has a background in the Norwegian security services, and is a fluent Arabic speaker.
The 40-year-old wrote a book on his two years living in Syria during the civil war in which he admitted paying ransoms to militias who kidnapped Lafarge employees and giving money to the Islamic State as a “tax” to allow the safe passage of the company’s trucks, Sveriges Radio reports.
In a 2016 interview with Norwegian broadcaster NRK, the 40-year-old said that most of the kidnappings were by so-called “moderate” rebel groups, while adding: “we also had indirect relationships with ISIS, which became Islamic State, among other things because we had to buy some commodities that came from quarries they controlled.”
He added: “A few times they stopped delivering to the factory, and then we had intermediaries who went in and negotiated with them to open the roads.”
The arrest of the 40-year-old marks the eighth arrest of individuals connected to Lafarge’s operations in Syria. One of those arrested, a former human resources manager, has since been charged with “endangering the lives of others.”
In total it is believed the company gave the terror group around half a million dollars to keep their Northern Syrian factory running. From July 2012 to September 2014 the company is said to have paid out $5.56 million to various armed groups in the region.
Last month French authorities were able to identify 416 individuals who have been financing the Islamic State and other terror groups from France. Experts have estimated that the terror group could be sitting on a large reserve of cash, claiming they may have collected as much as three billion euros.