French sugar company Tereos has been accused of supporting terrorism by supplying artificial sweeteners to Syria that are then used to make weaponry, AFP has reported.
Business partners of the manufacturing giant filed a complaint against the firm after an internal company investigation found that two shipments of sorbitol were made to Syria in February and July 2017. Sorbitol, when mixed with potassium nitrate, can be used to make rocket propellants.
The plaintiffs allege that Tereos had vowed to halt deliveries to conflict zones after a European NGO found dozens of the company’s bags containing sorbitol in a Daesh warehouse in Mosul in late 2016.
When confronted with the findings by the Conflict Armament Research (CAR) Tereos admitted that some 45 tonnes of the sugar alcohol had also vanished in Turkey in 2015, and were later found in Daesh stockpiles in Syria.
In December 2017, Tereos insisted it had “suspended its sorbitol supplies to so-called high-risk areas” shortly after the Mosul discovery in 2016, but recent investigations have found sales to Syria were not halted the following year.
“Despite Tereos’ awareness of the use of sorbitol as a weapon of war, the company knowingly continued to supply this raw material to a terrorist group,” documents from the anti-terror prosecutor’s office read.
Lawyer Jade Dousselin said her clients had been “stunned” by the allegations. “It’s a shock and a betrayal of Tereos as flagship of our agricultural economy,” she said.
However, the world’s largest sugar maker has maintained that the sales are “legal”, telling journalists that it stopped them after it realised they were being misused.
The war in Syria has killed more than 600,000 people since 2011 by regime-allied forces. More than half of, the vast majority the country’s 21 million population has been displaced, and the Assad government, led by the Muslim Alawite minority, has faced accusations of repopulation along sectarian lines.