The former CEO of French cement manufacturer Lafarge, accused in a judicial investigation into the group's activities until 2014 in Syria, accused French intelligence of "infiltrating" the company's branch during that period.

In October, the company, which was acquired by Swiss group Holcim in 2015, announced it had agreed to pay a $778 million fine in the United States and plead guilty to aiding "terrorist" organizations including Islamic State between 2013 and 2014 in Syria.

In an interview with Liberation on Friday, Bruno Lafon said: "It is clear that there is a complete difference between the story we heard at the beginning, that Lafarge financed terrorist groups in Syria between 2013 and 2014 for purely profit reasons, and what we are discovering today."

The official, who ran the cement manufacturer until 2015, added: "We know that there is a special relationship between the French state, its intelligence and Lafarge. One of the reasons the state is interested in us is that the location of the factory was really strategic for the anti-terrorist coalition and France, so I think the authorities at least encouraged us to continue our activity in Syria."

"If the company was hacked, it was without my knowledge. I didn't know anything about payments to terrorist groups and state activities in our factory."

Bruno Lavon reiterated his desire to be heard by the judges, as he did last October, as well as his request to hear "a certain number of state officials who played an important role during that specific period", "officials of the intelligence services and officials appointed to the President of the Republic", as well as to "remove defense secrets" of additional documents.

Bruno Lafon was charged with financing terrorism as part of the judicial investigation that began in 2017 in Paris, and Lafarge was also charged with complicity in crimes against humanity.

In 2013 and 2014, the company, through its Syrian subsidiary Lafarge Cement Syria, is suspected of paying several million dollars to armed groups including Islamic State and intermediaries to keep the cement plant in the Jalabiya area active as the country descended into war.

The investigation estimated the payments at between $5.2 million and about $11 million for Islamic State alone.