FILE PHOTO - Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz is seen during a business event in Tel Aviv, Israel August 8, 2010. Picture taken August 8, 2010. REUTERS/Stringer/File photo(reuters_tickers)
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli police on Monday detained Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz and four other suspects for questioning in a fraud investigation, a source briefed on the case said.
Israeli authorities put Steinmetz under house arrest last December, releasing him two weeks later without charge, in a probe of bribery allegations relating to the activities of his mining firm BSG Resources in Africa. BSGR denied any wrongdoing.
At the time, police said he and other Israelis living abroad were alleged to have paid tens of millions of dollars to senior public officials in the West African state of Guinea to advance their business.
In a statement on Monday, Israeli police said five suspects were detained for questioning under caution on suspicion of money laundering, fraudulent filing of corporate documents, fraud and corporate breach of trust, obstruction of justice and bribery.
A source briefed on the investigation told Reuters that one of the suspects was Steinmetz. Israeli media reports identified him as being among those detained and questioned. An Israeli law office representing the businessman, contacted by Reuters, declined to comment.
Police said the detainees, who were not identified in the statement, are suspected of having "acted together and methodically with the prime suspect in order to create and present fictitious contracts and deals ... on a foreign country in order to transfer funds and launder money".
The statement, which did not name the foreign nation, said that "in line with the developments in the investigation, a decision will be made whether to bring any of those involved to court for a discussion of the case".
Searches were carried out in the suspects' homes and offices, police said.
BSGR last December said the investigation had been initiated by the government of Guinea, which launched a review of mining contracts signed before 2011 as part of international efforts to improve transparency.
In its review, the West African nation investigated how BSGR obtained the rights to the Simandou deposit, the world's largest untapped iron ore reserves, in 2008.
(Reporting by Dan Williams; Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Richard Balmforth)