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Beny Steinmetz: Mining mogul in Swiss trial over Guinea deal

Beny Steinmetz outside court in Geneva, 11 Jan 21
Beny Steinmetz denies any wrongdoing

A billionaire French-Israeli diamond magnate, Beny Steinmetz, has looked in court docket in Switzerland to face trial over alleged corruption linked to a huge mining deal in Guinea.

He has always denied his enterprise, BSGR, paid multi-million dollar bribes to obtain iron ore mining exploration enables in southern Guinea in 2008.

He travelled to Geneva from Israel for the two-week trial.

If convicted he may withstand 10 years in reformatory.

Steinmetz, sixty four, became up to now sentenced in absentia to 5 years in penal complex by means of a courtroom in Romania for funds laundering.

Swiss prosecutors say Steinmetz paid about $10m (£7.4m) in bribes, partly via Swiss financial institution debts, to profit the rights to Guinea’s iron ore deposits within the Simandou mountains.

The enviornment is believed to comprise the realm’s greatest untapped iron ore deposits.

His attorney Marc Bonnant says “we are able to plead his innocence”.

Aerial view of Simandou open cast mine
Simandou iron ore web site: Mining large Rio Tinto has a large stake within the building

in keeping with the prosecutors, the bribes to Guinean public officers were paid with the support of Mamadie Toure, the widow of Guinea’s former president Lansana Conte. They also allege that Steinmetz cast documents linked to the deal.

The BBC’s Imogen Foulkes in Geneva says Ms Toure has been described because the celebrity witness for the prosecution, however her presence in court is not likely – she now lives within the u.s.. She has not yet commented on this trial.

Mr Bonnant instructed Reuters news company last month that Steinmetz had “by no means paid a cent to Mme Mamadie Toure” and talked about she become not married to Lansana Conte. “She is not a public agent and for this reason can not be corrupted,” he noted.

regardless of its large natural components, Guinea continues to be one of the poorest nations in Africa, and has won little from the Simandou iron ore riches.

‘Jackpot’ deal

Steinmetz secured the rights in change for an investment of around $160m, however he then bought half of them on to Brazilian multinational mining company, Vale, 18 months later for $2.5bn, netting a large income.

at the time it changed into referred to as a “jackpot” deal in the financial press. however it additionally raised questions about why the initial rights were granted so cheaply.

Mo Ibrahim, the Sudanese telecom billionaire and anti-corruption campaigner, requested at the time: “Are the Guineans who did that deal idiots, or criminals, or both?”

Steinmetz has all the time insisted he did nothing wrong. In a rare interview in 2012 he instructed the economic times that “americans don’t love success” and it become common to pursue “opportunities in an aggressive way”.

Guinea’s government stripped BSGR of its mining rights in 2014, citing evidence of corruption, which the enterprise denied.