Geneva, Switzerland. The head of the world’s largest cement company has found himself out on his ass, after charges of corruption have been confirmed in bribing Syrian opposition to Assad for lucrative business deals inside war torn Syria, under the western radar, at least until now,
Eric Olsen the Chief Executive Officer of the world’s biggest cement company Lafarge Holcim has resigned after two years at the helm amid a corruption probe into operations inside war-torn Syria, with anti-Assad opposition forces.
The removal of Olsen leaves Lafarge Holcim without a leader as it struggles to make a success of the merger between French and Swiss rivals neck deep in dirty business inside Syria and other NATO administered war zones.
Chairman Beat Hess was named interim CEO during the search for a successor, the Switzerland-based company said in a statement. Olsen called his departure a bid to appease “strong tensions” arising from the Syrian corruption case. The company doesn’t hold him responsible, saying his role and possible implication “has been a point of attention”.
Olsen got the top job as a compromise to get the 2015 merger through. He was executive vice president of operations at Lafarge, the French company that merged with Switzerland’s Holcim and was running the Syrian plant. His departure comes after Lafarge Holcim said an internal investigation found “significant errors of judgement” after money was paid to armed Syrian anti-Assad groups to keep the site operating. While local and regional managers made the decisions, “selected members of group management were aware”.
Syria has been in the grip of a multi-sided civil war that began as a violent US funded overthrow attempt against the President of the country Bashar al-Assad.
An internal probe found funds were given to third parties in Syria who then made arrangements with a number of groups, including “sanctioned parties”. The company said the payments were unacceptable, once it was caught making them.
The ex-CEO Olsen, who has both French and US nationality, joined Lafarge in 1999. Nothing has been heard from either the European Union or the US Department of Justice as to fines or prosecutions, with the silence saying it all.