GENEVA: A Geneva court on Friday convicted Israeli diamond and minerals magnate Beny Steinmetz on charges of corruption of foreign agents and forging documents in a trial over a bid to reap lavish iron ore resources in Guinea.
Steinmetz has both French and Israeli citizenship.
The man, considered by some to be Israeli’s richest man, was sentenced to five years in prison, after facing a maximum of 10 years in the case.
Steinmetz was also ordered to pay a $50 million fine. His lawyer, Marc Bonnant, said he would appeal the court ruling.
Steinmetz, 64, denied the charges. The plot, dating to the mid-2000s, involved Steinmetz’s BSGR Group squeezing out a rival for mining rights for vast iron ore deposits in Guinea’s south-eastern region.
The case centred on alleged payouts of millions to a former wife of late president Lansana Conte, and exposed the shady and complex world of deal-making and cutthroat competition in the lucrative mining business.
Wearing a mask and flanked by his lawyers, Steinmetz calmly listened and jotted down notes as the judge read the facts of the case and the verdict over two hours. Attendance in the Geneva courtroom was limited due to Covid-19 concerns.
The prosecutor alleged that Steinmetz and two other defendants engaged in corruption of foreign officials and falsification of documents to hide from authorities and banks the paying of bribes. Some of the funds allegedly transited through Switzerland and the case has been investigated in Europe, Africa and the United States.
Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2021