Press release / Dec. 19, 2016

Israeli police arrest Beny Steinmetz over massive Guinea bribery case

Police in Israel have detained businessman Beny Steinmetz for questioning over alleged bribery to obtain mining rights for one of the world’s most important iron ore concessions, according to media reports.

The Israeli police force made its investigation into Steinmetz public on Monday “after a covert investigation found evidence supporting the suspicions” of bribery, reported the daily Haaretz. Beny Steinmetz’s company BSGR confirmed his detention, saying the bribery allegations were baseless.

The case, which has been the subject of Global Witness investigations since 2012, involves the granting of lucrative mining rights to BSGR over the Simandou mountain range in Guinea, West Africa, in 2008. In 2010 BSGR sold 51% of its rights on the world’s largest iron ore company, Vale, for $2.5 billion—equivalent to twice Guinea’s entire budget at the time.

BSGR paid nothing for the rights, although it says it invested $160 million in the project.

“The detention of Beny Steinmetz shows that the Israeli authorities are treating the Simandou bribery case with the seriousness it deserves,” said Daniel Balint-Kurti of Global Witness’s Special Investigations team. “Guinea is one of the poorest countries in the world and was deprived of vast sums through BSGR’s corrupt deal. It is vital that such cases are fully investigated and that those involved in bribery are brought to justice.”

BSGR and its affiliates engaged in a sophisticated corruption scheme over Simandou, cloaking their activities through secretive companies in the British Virgin Islands.

“BSGR and its affiliates engaged in a sophisticated corruption scheme over Simandou, cloaking their activities through secretive companies in the British Virgin Islands. UK authorities should do all in their power to stop its Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies facilitating grand corruption.”

Global Witness gained access to detailed documentation about the deal, including transcripts of FBI wiretaps, signed cheques and bribery contracts. The contracts showed that BSGR and an affiliate offshore company had agreed to pay millions of dollars to Mamadie Touré – a wife of Guinea’s dictator at the time. BSGR also promised her a stake in the Simandou mining project, as part of the deal to secure the mining licences.

Israeli authorities collaborated with law enforcement agencies in the US, Switzerland and Guinea on the case.

According to Haaretz, at a remand hearing on Monday Steinmetz’s Israeli and French passports were confiscated and he was barred from leaving Israel for 80 days. His bail was set at $26 million, the newspaper reported.

/ ENDS

Contacts

Daniel Balint-Kurti, Head of Special Investigations

dbalint-kurti@globalwitness.org

+44 (0) 207 492 5872

+44 (0) 7912 517 146

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