ISRAELI diamond and minerals magnate Beny Steinmetz has been convicted of corrupting foreign agents and forging documents by a Geneva court, in a trial over an attempt to reap lavish iron ore resources in Guinea, said the UK’s Guardian newspaper citing an article by Associated Press on Friday.
Steinmetz, considered by some to be Israel’s richest man, was sentenced to five years in prison but had faced a maximum of 10 years in the case.
He was also ordered to pay a $50m fine. His defence lawyer, Marc Bonnant, said he would appeal, the newspaper said. Steinmetz, 64, had denied the charges.
The case centered on alleged payouts of millions to a former wife of late president Lansana Conte, and exposed the shady and complex world of deal-making and cutthroat competition in the lucrative mining business.
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 as saying in his defence that he was the owner of BSGR but not the boss.
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 during his two-week trial.