Beny Steinmetz Convicted on Corruption Charges In Switzerland
He was already sentenced to 5 years in jail.
Israeli Diamond tycoon Beny Steinmetz was found guilty on charges of corruption related to a mining deal which took place in the African nation of Guinea. Specifically, Steinmetz was convicted of corrupting foreign public officials and forging documents. He was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay a $56.5 million fine by the court.
Mr. Steinmetz’s lawyer has, of course, vowed to appeal the conviction. To many Americans this seems to have happened really quickly since the trial only began on January 11. So it took just 12 days from start to finish.
Some in Europe celebrated the court’s ruling. The Swiss transparency group Public Eye praised it saying in a statement that the conviction of such a high profile businessman, “not only sends a strong signal to the commodities sector as a whole, but also demonstrates the vital need for Switzerland to finally remedy the legal loopholes that allow such predatory practices.”
His mining company Beny Steinmetz Group Resources (BSGR) was charged with accused of paying $10 million in bribes for iron ore mining exploration permits in southern Guinea in 2008.
Forbes estimates Steinmetz’s wealth at $1 billion.
He is said to have paid Guinea’s late president’s wife Mamadie Toure $8.5 million to help him acquire the concession rights over iron ore worth billions of dollars. Toure has basically cut a deal to avoid being prosecuted herself and will testify against Steinmetz at the trial.
The trial was held in Switzerland because both Swiss and Israeli authorities accused Mr. Steinmetz of engaging in illegal money laundering activities which used Swiss banks to convey the alleged bribe money. This is why, even if he could not be extradited to Switzerland, Steinmetz had no choice but to show up for his trial – his own country Israel is also involved with this case.
And even the U.S. Justice Department has investigated Beny Steinmetz over his activities.
In an interview with the New Yorker, Steinmetz said, “We are the victims. We have done only good things for Guinea, and what we’re getting is spit in the face.”
The Guinea affair is just one in a long list of corruption charges made against Beny Steinmetz. He has been sued a number of times. And last year Steinmetz was convicted in Romania on charges of bribery in that country.
Beny Steinmetz did not attend that trial, however, and so he was convicted in absentia. The Romanian court ruled that he had created an organized crime group and cheated the Romanian people out of as much as $145 million. His advisor Tal Silberstein was also convicted in absentia. The two men were sentenced to five years in prison.