Paradis Fiscaux et Judiciaires

Israeli magnate to face corruption trial in Geneva in January

mercredi 9 décembre 2020 par

Israeli magnate to face corruption trial in Geneva in January

By AFP December 9, 2020

French-Israeli diamond magnate Beny Steinmetz will go on trial in Geneva next month over alleged corruption linked to mining deals in Guinea, Swiss prosecutors and his lawyer said Tuesday.

A Geneva prosecutor indicted Steinmetz in August last year on charges of corrupting public officials and forging documents in a bid to win Guinea mining rights.

The trial had been expected to take place back in March, but the Covid-19 pandemic and reportedly also calls for the prosecutor in the case to recuse himself delayed the proceedings.

Steinmetz’s lawyer Marc Bonnant told AFP that the trial was now set for January 11-22, and that his client, who “rejects all the charges”, “will be there”.

The Geneva prosecutors’ office confirmed the dates.

Swiss prosecutors accuse Steinmetz and two partners of making payments to Mamadie Toure, a wife of former Guinean president Lansana Conte, to win mining rights in the Simandou region of southeastern Guinea.

The region is estimated to contain the world’s biggest untapped iron-ore deposit.

Steinmetz has previously dismissed allegations against him as baseless and an attempt by political enemies to smear him.

Prosecutors charge that about $10 million (8.2 million euros) was paid in bribes, in part through Swiss bank accounts, and say that Steinmetz obtained the mining rights just before Conte died in 2008.

– Risks 10 years’ jail –

Bonnant insisted Tuesday that his client “never paid a cent to Ms Mamadie Toure”.

He said it was essential that she and other key witnesses be present at the trial, stressing that if they were not, he would demand a postponement.

The lawyer also said there were questions around the handling of the case by Claudio Mascotto, the prosecutor initially in charge of the investigation that began in 2013.

The prosecutors’ office told AFP that Mascotto was no longer handling the case, and had been replaced by the Geneva canton’s attorney general Yves Bertossa, along with prosecutor Caroline Babel-Casutt.

Steinmetz has faced legal problems in a number of countries over the mining deal, including several brief detentions in Israel on suspicion of money-laundering, fraud, forgery and obstruction of justice.

His company BSGR had in 2010 sold 51 percent of its stake in the concession to Brazilian mining giant Vale for $2.5 billion.

But in 2013, Guinean President Alpha Conde launched a review of permits allotted under Conte and later stripped the VBG consortium formed by BSGR and Vale of its permit.

In February 2019, Steinmetz reached an accord with Guinean authorities who lifted corruption charges against him in exchange for him giving up his remaining rights to the Simandou mine.

However, Geneva has continued to press ahead with its case, which could see Steinmetz jailed for up to 10 years if convicted.

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