A billionaire diamond magnate is to go on trial in Switzerland over allegations of corruption linked to a serious mining deal in Guinea.
Beny Steinmetz, who has Israeli and French nationality, has all the time denied his firm paid multi-million greenback bribes to acquire iron ore mining exploration permits in southern Guinea again in 2008.
His lawyer says he’ll journey from Israel to Geneva to “plead his innocence”. If convicted he may withstand 10 years in jail.
It’s uncommon for main corruption circumstances to go to trial in Switzerland, the place the 64-year-old is reported to be a former resident.
Prosecutors spent six years investigating a deal that gave Mr Steinmetz’s firm, BSG Assets (BSGR), rights to mine a big space of the mountainous area of Simandou. It incorporates one of many world’s largest untapped reserves of iron ore.
They accuse Mr Steinmetz of profitable the deal by bribing one of many 4 wives of the previous Guinean President Lansana Conté, and of allegedly forging paperwork to cowl it up.
Mr Steinmetz secured the rights in change for an funding of round $160 million (£118 million), however he then bought half of them on to Brazilian multinational mining firm, Vale, 18 months later for $2.5 billion, netting a large revenue.
On the time it was known as a ‘jackpot’ deal within the monetary press. But it surely additionally raised questions on why the preliminary rights had been granted so cheaply.
Mo Ibrahim, the Sudanese telecom billionaire and anti-corruption campaigner, requested on the time: “Are the Guineans who did that deal idiots, or criminals, or each?”
Mr Steinmetz has all the time insisted he did nothing fallacious. In a uncommon interview in 2012 he informed the Monetary Instances that “individuals don’t love success” and it was regular to pursue “alternatives in an aggressive approach”.
Forward of the trial, his lawyer Marc Bonnant insisted that he had “by no means paid a cent” to Mamadie Touré, the widow of former President Conté, whom the bribes allegedly went to.
Though she has been summoned to testify, it’s unclear if she’s going to attend.
Guinea’s authorities stripped BSGR of its mining rights in 2014, citing proof of corruption, which the corporate denied.
Regardless of its huge pure assets, Guinea stays one of many poorest nations on the African continent. It has but to revenue totally from the iron ore reserves of the Simandou mountains.