Steinmetz to Be Questioned in Geneva Over Guinea Bribery Claim

  • Interviews expected to last a couple of days: Swiss prosecutor
  • Measures taken to guarantee Steinmetz’s return to Israel

Beny Steinmetz in 2009.

Photographer: AP Photo

Swiss prosecutors will question Beny Steinmetz in Geneva amid an inquiry into allegations of bribery involving a $20 billion mining project in the Simandou hills in the west African country of Guinea.

The interviews with Steinmetz, a 60-year-old billionaire who made his fortune in the diamond trade, will take place toward the end of January and should last a couple of days, Geneva prosecutor Claudio Mascotto said in a telephone interview. He said he couldn’t comment in greater detail because the case is active.

Switzerland has been investigating Steinmetz since at least 2013 and Swiss prosecutors have questioned him before. Israeli police arrested Steinmetz on Dec. 20 on suspicions that he paid bribes to help his company win a stake in the Simandou project. Steinmetz hasn’t been charged by Israeli prosecutors. Still, his Israeli and French passports were confiscated.

The Simandou project, to which Steinmetz’s company won the rights to some of in 2008, also lured major mining companies including Rio Tinto Group and sparked a U.S. Department of Justice investigation.

Steinmetz has consistently denied paying bribes or committing any other wrongdoing. He has has said that the investigations stem from a conspiracy to deprive his company of its rights to Simandou. A spokesman for Steinmetz said on Friday that he is cooperating fully with the investigation.

Mascotto declined to comment on measures for Steinmetz’s trip to Geneva, beyond saying that precautions have been taken with Israeli authorities “to ensure he is going back to Israel once he is done.”

A spokesman for Israel’s police declined to comment.

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