GENEVA – A Swiss court on Friday accused French-Israeli mining officer Benny Steinmetz of corrupting foreign public officials and forging documents in a trial of its successful bid to reclaim iron ore resources in the West African nation of Guinea. Pleaded guilty to the charge.
One of Israel’s richest people, Mr. Steinmetz, was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of $ 56.5 million.
The case, which focused on the alleged payment of millions of dollars to the former wife of Lanceana Conte, a former Guinea president, died in 2008. The lawsuit exposed the shadowy and complex world of competition to deal and cut into lucrative mining businesses. .
His defense lawyer Mark Bonant said he would deliver the verdict “immediately”. Mr Bonant said that his client had not given “one dollar” to any official of Guinea’s regime during Mr Conte’s presidency.
The prosecutor, Yves Bertosa, told reporters that he was “satisfied” with the verdict, and Swiss transparency group Public Eye made a “historic decision”.
He added, “This belief of a high-profile business figure not only gives a strong signal to the commodity sector, but it also demonstrates a critical need for Switzerland to meet legal requirements that would allow such hunter practices is.
The charges were denied by 64-year-old Mr Steinmetz, who dated to the mid-2000s and was involved in his company BSG Resources, squeezing out a rival for mining rights for huge iron ore deposits in the Simandou region of Guinea.
The Geneva prosecutor’s office alleged that Mr. Steinmet and two other defendants engaged in corruption of foreign officials and falsified documents to hide the payment of bribes from officials and banks. Some funds have reportedly been transferred through Switzerland – and the case has been investigated in Europe, Africa and the United States.
The Swiss prosecutor’s office said that starting in 2005, Mr. Steinmet drafted a corruption deal with Mr. Conte that ruled the West African country from 1984 until his death, and his fourth wife Mamadi Tour included a payment of nearly $ 10 million. .
The prosecution office said BSG Resources won exploration and exploitation licenses in Guinea in the Simandou region between 2006 and 2010, and its competitor – the Anglo-Australian mining conglomerate Rio Tinto – was denied the concessions it had received. Then in that area.
In 2014, the Guinea government, following a review initiated by the democratically elected President Alpha Condé, paid millions of dollars through Ms. Tour’s representative, accusing Mr. Steinmet’s company of corruption.
Civil society organizations have advocated proposals that would add accountability to businesses headquartered in Switzerland for their actions abroad. One such proposal, which would have held companies based in Switzerland to be responsible for human rights violations and environmental damage done by subsidiaries abroad, failed in a referendum last year.