Updated to include comment from Reuters that it stands by its reporter’s coverage.
THE High Court in Sierra Leone has kicked out the case against Octea Ltd, a company owned by mining entrepreneur Beny Steinmetz Resources Group (BSG), which had been under-fire for allegedly harming health and livelihoods of community members living near Octea’s Koidu diamond mine in the West African country.
Judges said the case brought against the miner “had no merit”, according to an Octea statement on Monday. Reuters reported on October 2 that a freeze over the Koidu assets, to remove the risk of expatriation, had also been lifted by the High Court.
A gagging order had also been lifted by the High Court.
Citing its own investigation, Octea said the entire legal suit was a fabrication as the defendants and plaintiffs listed in the application were “non-existent”. In several cases, a number of plaintiffs had already received compensation from Octea after the mine transferred them to safety zones, it said.
Octea said the legal action was instigated by non-governmental organisations and publicised by a Reuters reporter the mining firm said was funded by the George Soros Foundation. The foundation is one of the parties defending a $10bn lawsuit filed by BSG Resources in the US Federal Court related to the ownership of mineral rights to the Simandou deposit in Guinea-Conakry, Octea said.
Reuters said its reports were accurate regarding the matter. “Our independent reporting fairly and accurately summarises the plaintiffs’ allegations and the status of the lawsuit. We stand by our reporter and our reporting.”
Said Octea: “Octea is evaluating its legal options with regards to those parties who have attempted to damage the business of Octea and its operations in Sierra Leone, but also those who have actively smeared the reputation of Octea, its officers and its workers, both within and outside of Sierra Leone”.
In August, Reuters reported that Steinmetz was to fight Swiss corruption charges related to long-standing claims he paid bribes in order to win mining licences for Guinea’s iron ore resources. Claudio Mascotto, a Geneva prosecutor, said he was seeking prison terms of two to 10 years for Steinmetz and two associates over the alleged payment of $10m in bribes for mining licences between 2005 and 2010.
Citing the Israeli billionaire’s lawyer, Marc Bonnant, Reuters said the charges would be disproved just as Guinea stepped back from charging Steinmetz on similar claims. “His defence is simple, he absolutely contests all the charges against him,” said Bonnant.