Steinmetz walks free after prosecution, but clear message sent to mining sector wrongdoers

Beny Steinmetz

THE conviction for bribery of Beny Steinmetz, the head of Beny Steinmetz Resources Group is an important moment in the fight against corruption in the mining sector, but there are doubts the Israeli businessman will ever step foot in jail, said Bloomberg News.

A Geneva court last week sentenced Steinmetz to five years in jail after finding him guilty of offering $8.5m to the wife of deceased former Guinea president, Lansana Conté for the rights to part of the Simandou iron ore deposit.

Steinmetz has appealed the decision.

“It’s an important decision because it happened in Geneva as one of the most important commodity-trading hubs that are vulnerable to corruption,” David Muehlemann, a policy analyst at Swiss corporate governance watchdog Public Eye told Bloomberg News. “It’s also an important sign that there are Swiss prosecutors who’ve shown it’s possible to enforce bribery provisions.”

But a prior agreement with Steinmetz’s lawyers that he agree to stand prosecution provided he was not detained by Swiss authorities, means Steinmetz may never be jailed. Steinmetz has returned to Israel which does not extradite its nationals.

Nonetheless, Steinmetz could struggle to conduct more international deals whilst the importance of his prosecution would not be lost on the mining sector which is trying to overhaul its reputation, said the newswire.

“The evidence which demonstrated that Steinmetz had a personal role in the bribery was what made this case easier to reach a conviction,” said Kush Amin, a legal specialist at anti-corruption advocacy group, Transparency International.

“The fact that he was so clearly the principal of the organisation supported this argument and helped to build a strong case.”

The fact Steinmetz hadn’t been jailed should not stop society chasing down wrong-doings and malfeasance in the sector, Amin told Bloomberg News.