Israeli businessman Mr Beny Steinmetz last week denied any role in corruption or forgery linked to mining rights his company Beny Steinmetz Group Resources secured in Guinea, describing himself as the owner and company ambassador but not the boss. Mr Steinmetz told the judges he only gave advice and had never presented himself as the boss or taken decisions on projects. When asked why the company carried his name if he was not running it, he said “My name was 10 on a scale of 10, seen like a white diamond.”
Mr Steinmetz was indicted in August 2019 by a Geneva prosecutor who accused him and two aides of paying, or having paid, USD 10 million in bribes to obtain exploration permits for some of the world’s richest iron-ore deposits in the remote Simandou mountains of Guinea. Swiss prosecutors allege Steinmetz and his aides won the mining rights by bribing Mamadie Toure, who they say was one of the wives of the former Guinean President Lansana Conté, between 2006 and 2010, and that they forged documents to cover it up.
Mr Steinmetz had been involved in a long-running dispute with the government of the Republic of Guinea surrounding the development of Simandou Blocks 1 & 2, part of one of the world's largest iron-ore deposits. In December 2008, a three-year exploration permit to prospect for iron ore in Simandou, was awarded to BSGR Guinea to Steinmetz for USD 160 million. Mr Steinmetz then soon sold a 51% share on to Vale for USD 2.5 billion. In April 2014 the Guinean government accused BSGR of obtaining the Simandou mining rights by paying bribes and that the rights would be stripped from BSGR and its partner Vale SA. In September 2014 BSGR started an international arbitration proceeding against the Republic of Guinea in the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, challenging the government's decision to revoke its mining rights. In February 2019, BSGR together with Guinean President Alpha Condé agreed to drop the pending arbitration case and all allegations of wrongdoing. As part of the agreement, BSGR would relinquish its rights to Simandou and maintain an interest in the Zogota deposit that would be developed by head of Niron Metals, Mick Davis.