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Mining magnate Steinmetz seeks to overturn corruption conviction


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GENEVA — Israeli mining magnate Beny Steinmetz appeared in a Geneva court on Monday to appeal against a conviction for corruption and forgery over his pursuit of iron ore deposits in Africa.

Steinmetz has consistently denied the charges for which he was sentenced to five years in jail and fined 50 million Swiss francs ($52 million) by a Swiss criminal court https://www.reuters.com/article/swiss-steinmetz-idAFL1N2JX1Q2 in 2021.

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He filed an appeal and has not served any time in jail.

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On Monday, he briefly addressed the appeal court to confirm his identity.

“Beny Steinmetz is very optimistic,” his spokesperson Marc Comina told Reuters outside the court. “He is motivated by a desire to better explain what really happened in Guinea where mining rights were obtained thanks to the quality of the projects, not with corruption.”

In its ruling in January 2021, the lower court found Steinmetz and two others paid, or arranged payment, of $8.5 million in bribes between 2006 and 2012 to one of the wives of former Guinea president Lansana Conte, Mamadie Toure, to obtain exploration permits for iron ore buried beneath the Simandou mountains.

Conte died in 2008. The Guinean government, which was by then a different administration, made no comment at the time of the ruling.

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Central to Steinmetz’s defense was his assertion he was not involved in the day-to-day running of BSGR (Beny Steinmetz Group Resources), the mining arm of his businesses that went into administration in 2018.

Steinmetz, 66, is a former Geneva resident who moved back to Israel in 2016 and has in the past been ranked as a billionaire.

In preliminary remarks on Monday, his lawyer Daniel Kinzer called for the court to disregard Toure’s statements that gave details of payments she allegedly received.

He said they should not have been allowed and should be withdrawn because the lower court had not heard from her directly and therefore could not form its own opinion of her credibility.

Toure, whose whereabouts are unknown, a court spokesperson said, was called as a witness in Geneva last year but did not appear. Her statements were taken from a separate U.S. investigation and were used as part of the lower Swiss court’s judgment in 2021.

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Reuters was unable to reach her for comment and the spokesperson said he did not know how to contact her.

The two other defendants found guilty with Steinmetz also appeared in court on Monday to appeal against their conviction and their appeals will be heard with Steinmetz’s.

The court hearing is expected to last until Sept. 7, the Geneva criminal appeal court said in an email.

Simandou, in Guinea’s southeastern corner, is the largest known iron ore deposit of its kind, which analysts estimate holds more than 2 billion tonnes of high-grade ore, but legal disputes and the cost of building infrastructure mean it is untapped nearly three decades after its discovery. ($1 = 0.9619 Swiss francs) (Reporting by Clara Denina in London and Emma Farge in Geneva; additional reporting by Saliou Samb in Conakry; editing by Carmel Crimmins and Barbara Lewis)

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