Israeli tycoon appeals corruption conviction in Swiss court

Aug 28, 2022, 11:23 PM | Updated: Aug 29, 2022, 9:21 am
Israeli diamond magnate Beny Steinmetz, left, with his lawyer Daniel Kinzer arrives to a courthouse...

Israeli diamond magnate Beny Steinmetz, left, with his lawyer Daniel Kinzer arrives to a courthouse in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, Aug. 29, 2022. Steinmetz returns to a Geneva courthouse on Monday to appeal his conviction on charges of corrupting foreign public officials and forging documents, a case linked to his firm's bid to reap lavish iron ore resources in the west African country of Guinea. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)

(Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)

GENEVA (AP) — Lawyers for Israeli diamond magnate Beny Steinmetz urged a Swiss appeals court on Monday to throw out testimony from a former first lady of Guinea that contributed to his conviction for corruption.

The case involves an alleged plot, dating to the mid-2000s, in which Steinmetz’s BSGR Group squeezed out a rival for mining rights for vast iron ore deposits in Guinea’s southeastern Simandou region. The case has exposed the shady, complex world of deal-making and the cutthroat competition in the lucrative mining business.

The prosecutor’s office has argued that from 2005 onward, Steinmetz crafted a pact of corruption with Guinean President Lansana Conte, who ruled the West African country from 1984 until his death in 2008, and with Mamadie Toure, his fourth wife, involving the payment of nearly $10 million.

Appearing before a Geneva appeals court on Monday, Steinmetz’s lawyer, Daniel Kinzer, said the terms and circumstances of a deal between Toure and the FBI in the United States were unclear and defense lawyers never had a chance to question her — depriving Steinmetz of the chance for a fair trial and the right to cross-examine her.

He said Swiss state prosecutors had “deliberately” excluded defense teams from any pretrial questioning of Toure in the United States, where she lives. She has reached an agreement with U.S. authorities in the case.

Toure did not appear for the original trial in January last year. At its conclusion, Steinmetz was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of 50 million Swiss francs ($51.5 million). Two other defendants received lesser penalties.

“It’s easier to falsely accuse a defendant when you don’t have to look at them,” Kinzer told the court. “The defense team was never able to cross-examine Madame Toure.”

He said a “face-to-face confrontation” was required under both Swiss law and from rulings by the European Court of Human Rights.

Geneva state prosecutor Yves Bertossa countered, however, that such accounts were admissible but that they had to be used “with a certain prudence.” He said it was an “extraordinary” insinuation that U.S. or Swiss prosecutors might be “in cahoots” with Toure, and said that other evidence in the case — like written contracts, bank statements and wiretaps — were sufficient to uphold conviction.

Steinmetz, 66, has denied the charges and remains free pending the appeal. If the conviction is upheld, his lawyers can appeal to the Swiss federal court. He was in court Monday, listening intently and intermittently scribbling notes to pass to his legal team. He was not expected to be questioned until later this week.

The appeal is expected to run through Sept. 7.

Backers of the Israeli tycoon insist that the lower court didn’t get a full understanding of the facts of the case, and believe that the court wanted to set an example that Switzerland — which has had a reputation over the years for secretive financial dealings — can hold financial kingpins to account when necessary.

After the verdict, Swiss transparency group Public Eye hailed a “landmark ruling” that showed the court could see through a “slick” legal defense.

In its court filing, the prosecutor’s office said BSGR won exploration and exploitation licenses in Guinea between 2006 and 2010 in Guinea’s Simandou region, while its competitor — Anglo-Australian mining group Rio Tinto — was stripped of its mining rights on two sites in the region.

Steinmetz’s defense team says a mountain range in the area holds some of the world’s largest untapped deposits of iron ore, and the standoff has stifled any hopes to reap them — and offer a potential windfall for an impoverished country. They say BSGR was the first company to study the feasibility of mining iron ore in the area.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Haitian migrant Gerson Solay, 28, carries his daughter, Bianca, as he and his family cross into Can...
Associated Press

US, Canada to end loophole that allows asylum-seekers to move between countries

President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday announced a plan to close a loophole to an immigration agreement.
2 days ago
Expert skateboarder Di'Orr Greenwood, an artist born and raised in the Navajo Nation in Arizona and...
Associated Press

Indigenous skateboard art featured on new stamps unveiled at Phoenix skate park

The Postal Service unveiled the “Art of the Skateboard" stamps at a Phoenix skate park, featuring designs from Indigenous artists.
2 days ago
(Facebook Photo/City of San Luis, Arizona)...
Associated Press

San Luis authorities receive complaints about 911 calls going across border

Authorities in San Luis say they are receiving more complaints about 911 calls mistakenly going across the border.
8 days ago
(Pexels Photo)...
Associated Press

Daylight saving time begins in most of US this weekend

No time change is observed in Hawaii, most of Arizona, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Marianas.
16 days ago
Mexican army soldiers prepare a search mission for four U.S. citizens kidnapped by gunmen in Matamo...
Associated Press

How the 4 abducted Americans in Mexico were located

The anonymous tip that led Mexican authorities to a remote shack where four abducted Americans were held described armed men and blindfolds.
16 days ago
Tom Brundy points to a newly built irrigation canal on one of the fields at his farm Tuesday, Feb. ...
Associated Press

Southwest farmers reluctant to idle farmland to save water

There is a growing sense that fallowing will have to be part of the solution to the increasingly desperate drought in the West.
23 days ago

Sponsored Articles

(Photo: OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center)...

Here’s what you need to know about OCD and where to find help

It's fair to say that most people know what obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders generally are, but there's a lot more information than meets the eye about a mental health diagnosis that affects about one in every 100 adults in the United States.
(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
Israeli tycoon appeals corruption conviction in Swiss court