Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz is to stand trial along with two associates for the alleged payment of bribes for mining licences in Guinea between 2005 and 2010, the Geneva public prosecutor announced on Monday.
Geneva prosecutor Claudio Mascotto said that the three were accused of “having promised in 2005 and then paid or had bribes paid to one of the wives of former Guinean President Lansana Conte” to have mining rights allocated to the company Beny Steinmetz Group Resources (BSGR).
BSGR walked away from Guinea's massive Simandou iron ore project as part of a settlement announced in February which ended a long-running dispute with the West African nation, the company and Guinea’s government said at the time.
BSGR has always maintained it did nothing wrong. The two other defendants were not named in the Geneva prosecutor’s statement and the judge has yet to set a trial date.
Mascotto, who opened the investigation in 2013, said he was indicting the three suspects in Geneva, where some of the alleged $10 million in bribes had transited, for alleged corruption of Guinean public officials and forgery.
Steinmetz was also resident in Geneva at the time.
The prosecutor is seeking prison terms of 2 to 10 years.
The trial in a criminal court will be the city’s first major international corruption case under Swiss federal law, sources close to the case told the Reuters news agency.
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