June 28 (Bloomberg) -- Beny Steinmetz, Israel’s richest person, rejected U.S. claims that payments by a man with ties to his BSG Resources Ltd. were made to help win a mining concession in Guinea, according to an interview with Israeli newspaper Yedioth Aharonot.
“That is nonsense,” Steinmetz is quoted by the paper as saying. “The company paid nothing to no one.” Ian Middleton, a spokesman for BSGR, confirmed the comments.
Frederic Cilins, 50, a French citizen with ties to BSGR, has said he’s innocent of charges he interfered with a U.S. grand jury probe into bribes paid for mining rights in Guinea. He claimed he was arrested after trying to stop an extortion attempt by the government’s main witness.
BSGR said in March that Guinea was preparing to remove mining rights from its joint venture with Vale SA, which planned a $10 billion operation. The company has been targeted in extortion attempts on more than three occasions and each bid was repelled, Steinmetz told the newspaper. He met Cilins three or four times after a 2010 deal valued at $2.5 billion was signed with Brazil’s Vale, he said.
Cilins 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. He said in a court filing this month he worked in 2005 and 2006 for BSGR as a go-between with Guinea in the company’s efforts to secure mining rights in the Simandou region. He claimed that the contracts are fake and that he was trying to stop the witness, Mamadie Toure, from extorting money from him and BSGR.
Cilins has said the case against him is “politically motivated.” Citing evidence from the government, Cilins claims Alpha Conde, the 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 case is U.S. v. Cilins, 13-cr-00315, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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