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Former LafargeHolcim CEO charged with Syria terrorism funding

[PARIS] Former LafargeHolcim Ltd chief executive officer Eric Olsen was placed under formal investigation and charged with funding terrorist groups as part of a French probe into the cement maker's operations in war-torn Syria.

Olsen, who resigned from the company in April, was also charged late Thursday with putting someone else's life in danger and placed under judicial supervision, said an official at the Paris prosecutor's office who declined to be named in line with policy. A spokeswoman for LafargeHolcim declined to comment.

The French criminal inquiry focuses on the manufacturer's now-shuttered operations in Syria, where Lafarge SA of France operated a cement factory before a merger with Swiss rival Holcim Ltd. The investigation has been unfolding for months, triggering a management shuffle and an overhaul by new CEO Jan Jenisch of LafargeHolcim's financial targets for 2017 and 2018 as well as the appointment of a new finance chief.

Bruno Lafont, the former CEO of Lafarge and co-chairman of the combined company, along with another executive, Christian Herrault, also faced interrogation by French authorities this week, Agence France-Presse reported.

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LafargeHolcim said in March an internal investigation found "significant errors of judgement" after money was paid to armed groups to keep a cement plant in Syria operating. While local and regional managers made the decisions, "selected members of group management were aware," the review concluded.

At the time of Olsen's resignation, the cement maker said that while it didn't hold him responsible, his role and possible implication "has been a point of attention." Olsen said his departure was an effort to appease "strong tensions" arising from the Syria case and that he was not involved or aware of any wrongdoing.

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