Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
As you’ve heard this morning, there is no question as to the seriousness of the conduct at the heart of today’s resolution. The defendants routed nearly six million dollars in illicit payments to ISIS and al-Nusrah Front in Syria – two of the world’s most notorious terrorist groups.
In my time as Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, I saw the horrific violence perpetrated by these terrorist organizations and the ways they exploited sectarian violence in Syria to seize territory, coerce the civil population and generate revenue streams to accelerate their attack plotting.
The defendants negotiated and made unlawful payments at a time when these groups were gaining territory and brutalizing innocent civilians in Syria and elsewhere and were actively plotting against Americans.
LaFarge and its Syrian subsidiary have admitted to engaging in criminal conduct that constitutes material support to terrorism in both legal and practical terms. There is no justification – none – for a multi-national corporation authorizing payments to a designated terrorist group. Such payments are egregious violations of our laws, justify maximum scrutiny by U.S. authorities, and warrant severe punishment.
The National Security Division is responsible for coordinating the Justice Department’s criminal prosecutions of terrorism offenses, as well as criminal violations of U.S. sanctions and export-control laws. Now more than ever, it is critical that the United States hold accountable companies and individuals who break our laws by paying designated entities. In the National Security Division, we are dedicating additional enforcement resources to meet the urgency of this national security imperative.
Today’s announcement should serve as yet another reminder that the Department’s reach is far, and our memory is long. Let me take this opportunity to emphasize three points with broader significance for our work.
First, U.S. terrorism statutes—and our sanctions and export control laws—extend to multi-national companies anywhere that come within the jurisdiction of our laws. And we are committed to ensuring that companies that seek to access U.S. markets and the U.S. financial system uphold their basic obligations under U.S. law.
Second, this case relates to corporate defendants acquired by a competitor well after the criminal conduct at issue. This should serve as a cautionary tale. There are risks that come with transactions involving companies that operate in high-risk environments on account of U.S. terrorism designations and sanctions and export-control laws. Companies should not expect a free pass from the Justice Department simply because they are under new management.
Finally, I want to make clear that the Department cannot and will not accept the notion that this kind of conduct is excused where corporations try to maintain business operations in places like Syria but do not share the ideology of terrorist groups.
Here, former executives made what they viewed was a business choice to pay designated terrorist groups as a cost of doing business and as a way to gain ground on competitors. U.S. law is clear that this was not their choice to make. And the defendants are now facing the consequences.
Originally published at https://www.justice.gov/opa/speech/assistant-attorney-general-national-security-matthew-g-olsen-delivers-remarks-lafarge