French Citizen Charged With Obstructing U.S. Bribe Probe

A French citizen with ties to BSG Resources Ltd. was indicted in New York on charges of obstructing a federal grand jury investigation into bribes paid to win mining rights in Guinea.

Frederic Cilins, 50, described by Guinean Justice Minister Christian Sow as an agent of BSGR, is accused of offering to pay a witness to lie to the grand jury and to turn over documents for him to destroy, according to the indictment filed yesterday in federal court in Manhattan. BSGR is controlled by billionaire Beny Steinmetz, who is Israel’s richest person, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Cilins, who was arrested April 15 in Jacksonville, Florida, was charged with five criminal counts. Prosecutors said Cilins “repeatedly attempted to obstruct the grand jury investigation” in conversations and meetings with the witness, the former wife of a dead high-ranking official of the West African nation.

Cilins appeared in federal court in Jacksonville yesterday. He was ordered held until a judge rules on his bail application. According to a court filing, he is scheduled to appear at a preliminary hearing April 29 before U.S. Magistrate Judge James R. Klindt.

Michelle P. Smith, a Jacksonville lawyer representing Cilins, didn’t immediately respond to phone or e-mail messages after regular business hours yesterday seeking comment on the indictment.

BSGR said last month that Guinea is preparing to strip its joint venture with Vale SA of its mining rights in the country. The venture is planning a $10 billion iron ore mine at Simandou. The dispute intensified amid a government review into the agreements signed with mining companies.

$5 Million

The U.S. said Cilins offered to pay the witness as much as $5 million to give him the original copies of contracts that showed an alleged corrupt deal involving an unidentified mining company and her former husband and to sign a false affidavit. The contracts had been requested by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, prosecutors said.

The U.S. said it has a recording of a meeting between Cilins and the witness in which Cilins learned a grand jury was investigating the mining company’s conduct.

Cilins repeatedly told the woman that the documents in her possession needed to be destroyed “urgently,” prosecutors said.

Cooperating Witness

The cooperating witness is the former wife of a now-deceased high ranking Guinea government official, according to an April 15 complaint in the case.

The witness isn’t identified by name in the complaint or the indictment. The witness is cooperating in hope of obtaining immunity for her own potential criminal conduct, according to the complaint.

Mamadie Toure, the wife of former Guinea President Lansana Conte, is cooperating with the U.S. probe, according to a person with knowledge of the investigation.

Toure was the fourth wife of Conte, who died in 2008.

Sow, the Guinean justice minister, said in an April 16 statement issued by the office of President Alpha Conde that Cilins was an agent of BSGR. The company said in an e-mailed statement that Cilins isn’t one of its 6,000 employees.

The case is U.S. v. Cilins, 13-mj-00975, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

The Florida case is U.S. v. Cilins, 13-mj-01087, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida (Jacksonville).

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