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Swiss Authorities Start Probe Into Steinmetz-Linked Company

Geneva’s public prosecutor has opened a probe of a company linked to Beny Steinmetz, Israel’s richest person, following a request from the government of Guinea where a company he controls owns an iron ore deposit.

“Geneva’s public prosecutor opened a case, following a request of mutual legal assistance sent by the Republic of Guinea,” Henri Della Casa, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, said today in an e-mailed statement. “Investigations are ongoing. At this stage, the investigation secrecy prohibits providing other indications.”

The Swiss action follows a U.S. grand jury probe that started in April into claims of bribes paid for mining rights in Guinea. The West African nation is reviewing mining licenses including the Simandou deposit, once described as the world’s largest untapped deposit of iron ore, owned in a joint venture by BSG Resources Ltd. and Brazil’s Vale SA.

Albert Damantang Camara, a spokesman for the government of Guinea, said he couldn’t immediately comment when contacted by phone today. Ian Middleton, a spokesman for BSGR in London, also couldn’t immediately comment.

Onyx Financial Advisors U.K., a company linked to Steinmetz, yesterday “provided the Swiss authorities with information following a request to Switzerland by the Government of Guinea,” according to an e-mailed statement from Onyx provided by an external communications firm working for BSGR yesterday.

About 20 Swiss police officers visited the Geneva offices of Onyx early yesterday morning, staying for several hours and removing documents from a basement, Reuters reported, citing an unidentified security guard.

Frederic Cilins, 50, a French citizen with ties to BSGR, has said he’s innocent of charges he interfered with the grand jury investigation. He said he was arrested after trying to stop an extortion attempt by the government’s main witness.

Onyx Financial is based in London and has offices in Geneva, Amsterdam, Johannesburg and Rome, according to its website. Dag Cramer is chief executive officer of Onyx Financial Advisers U.K. and also a director of BSGR, according to its website.

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