BENY Steinmetz denied any role in corruption or forgery related to mining rights his company, Beny Steinmetz Group Resources (BSGR), secured in Guinea, said Reuters.
Steinmetz was indicted in August 2019 by a Geneva prosecutor who accused him and two aides of paying $10m in bribes to obtain exploration permits to Simandou, considered one of the world’s richest iron ore deposits. Reuters cited Steinmetz of saying he was the owner of BSGR but not the boss.
“My name was 10 on a scale of 10, seen like a white diamond,” he said when asked why the company carried his name if he was not running it. If convicted, Steinmetz could face up to 10 years in prison. BSGR told Reuters it could not comment on the proceedings.
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.
“I met Mamadie Toure, the woman or girl, once in my life for only five minutes. We have not spoke,” Steinmetz said. His lawyer has said Toure was not married to Conte and could not be considered a public official.
The size of the iron deposit at Simandou meant it had the potential to transform Guinea’s economy but the legal wrangles, together with the difficulty and cost of access have ensured it has never been developed, said Reuters.
“It’s really a tragedy. If the project had been carried out, it would have quadrupled the GDP of Guinea. Now 10 years later, there is nothing,” Steinmetz told the court.
The trial, which opened on Monday, is expected to last two weeks.