June 14 (Bloomberg) -- A French citizen with ties to BSG Resources Ltd. said he is innocent of charges he interfered with a U.S. grand jury probe into bribes paid for mining rights in Guinea, claiming he was arrested after trying to stop an extortion attempt by the government’s main witness.
Frederic Cilins, 50, who said he worked as an agent of BSGR, is charged with trying to pay a cooperating witness to give him contracts sought by U.S. authorities and to lie about the alleged bribery scheme. Cilins claimed in a filing in Manhattan federal court yesterday that the contracts are fake and that he was trying to stop the witness, Mamadie Toure, from extorting money from him and BSGR.
“Mr. Cilins’ various telephone calls and meetings between himself and Mamadie Toure in Jacksonville, Florida, in 2013 were to obtain these false documents so that he and BSGR and others could no longer be blackmailed and extorted,” Cilins said in the court filing.
Cilins said he worked in 2005 and 2006 for BSGR, the mining company controlled by Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz, as a go-between with Guinea in the company’s efforts to secure mining rights in the country’s Simandou region.
The papers were filed in support of Cilins’s request to reduce the amount of property necessary to secure a $15 million bond that was set for his release from custody. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for June 20.
In the court filing, Cilins said Toure, whom prosecutors said was the fourth wife of former Guinean President Lansana Conte, wasn’t actually married to him. Cilins also claimed Toure is cooperating with U.S. prosecutors to remain in the country and avoid prosecution in Guinea.
Lansana Conte died in 2008 after ruling the West African nation for 24 years.
Toure didn’t immediately respond to a voice-mail message seeking comment on Cilins’s claims.
BSGR and Steinmetz declined to comment on Cilins’s court filing, according to Ian Middleton, a spokesman with Powerscourt. BSGR has denied wrongdoing in connection with its Guinean mining interests. Allegations of bribery are motivated by an “ongoing campaign to seize the assets of BSGR,” the firm said in a statement May 9.
Cilins said the case against him is “politically motivated.” Citing evidence from the government, Cilins claims Alpha Conde, the current president of Guinea, met with President Barack Obama in late 2012 or early 2013 to ask that the U.S. investigate BSGR’s conduct in connection with Simandou, according to his court filing.
The meeting was prompted by the relationship between Conde and billionaire investor George Soros, Cilins said in the court filing.
Prosecutors claim Cilins and others visited Toure in Guinea when Lansana Conte was in office to offer $12 million to Toure and senior members of Conte’s government for their help in securing the Simandou mining rights. The arrangement was allegedly reflected in a series of contracts that Cilins later tried to get Toure to “urgently destroy.”
The government claims Cilins offered to pay Toure as much as $6 million to give him the original copies of the contracts, which were subpoenaed by a federal grand jury in Manhattan. He also sought to persuade Toure to lie to agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors claim that Cilins told Toure, in a recorded conversation, that he went to an unidentified coconspirator to talk about the U.S. investigation. In a whisper, Cilins said he told the coconspirator that Toure would never betray him or turn over documents, according to a transcript of the conversation quoted in a court filing by prosecutors last week.
“He told me ‘That’s good, but I want you to go see - I want you to tell me ‘I saw that the documents [noise] were destroyed; it’s over, there are no more documents.’”
Cilins was arrested April 14. He’s charged with witness tampering, obstructing a criminal investigation and destruction of evidence in a federal investigation. The witness-tampering and record-destruction charges carry maximum prison terms of 20 years. Cilins has pleaded not guilty.
Cilins is being held on a $15 million bond to be secured by $5 million in cash or property and the signatures of five financially responsible people. He’s also required to stay in his Turnberry Isle, Florida home, with electronic monitoring and guarded 24 hours a day by armed security. His lawyer, Michelle Smith, is asking that he be released after posting $3.6 million in real estate.
Cilins, whose wife, four children and other family live in Antibes, France, may try to flee if released before trial, prosecutors argued. Cilins said that he and his business partners, Avi LevRan and Michael Noy, have done business in Africa, Canada and South America.
The case is U.S. v. Cilins, 13-cr-00315, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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