Is the French-Israeli Beny Steinmetz a poorly-rounded businessman or the architect of a gigantic corruption operation? Swiss Justice has about a week to answer this question at the center of the lawsuit against the mining magnate, who is accused of having paid millions of dollars in bribes to Guinea officials.
as reported from Geneva, Jeremiah Lanche
The prosecutor of the criminal court in Geneva requested five years in prison to Beny Steinmetz, four years for the man on the field, the Frenchman Frédéric Cilins, and two years on probation for the director of the companies in the Steinmetz group, Sandra Merloni-Horemans.
“This is a textbook case about corruption,” he said. Everything is there: “emails, eavesdropping, minutes”. In a river indictment, he swept the defense’s dissertation, according to which Beny Steinmetz was unaware of the payments to ex-wife of Guinean president Lansana Conté in exchange for the rights to an iron mine. Nor does the prosecutor find credible the fact that Beny Steinmetz was only an “adviser” to the group bearing his name.
The defense, she condemned the absence of the chief prosecutor during the trial and an investigation, which she considers solely an indictment. The lawyers for the two co-defendants have requested acquittal. Those of Beny Steinmetz should do the same when the trial resumes on Monday.
This lawsuit is the culmination of a long international investigation launched in 2013 into mining licenses granted in Guinea to Beny Steinmetz Group Resources (BSGR), where the diamond trader holds the title of advisor.
The case dates back to the first decade of the 2000s, when the Guinean government of former President Lansana Conté, shortly before his death in 2008, expelled the Anglo-Australian group Rio Tinto from the exploitation of Blocks 1 and 2 d. of the largest iron deposits in the world at Simandou.
Beny Steinmetz is accused of setting up a financial package through shell companies to discreetly pay bribes – some of which would have passed through Swiss accounts – to the fourth wife of former Conté president, Mamadie Touré, so BSGR replaces Rio Tinto.