• Switzerland's news in English
Billionaire loses appeal on seized documents
Guinean president Alpha Condé, officially sworn into a second term of office on Monday, has accused Steinmetz's company of illegally obtaining mining rights in his country. Photo: Cellou Binani/AFP

Billionaire loses appeal on seized documents

The Local · 14 Dec 2015, 23:35

Published: 14 Dec 2015 23:35 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

In a ruling made by the Bellinzona court last month and released on Monday, it rejected an appeal made by Steinmetz to overturn a decision made by Swiss justice authorities to send the documents to the US.

Steinmetz, 59, is not mentioned by name in the court’s decision and is referred to as “A.” 

But French media outlets Le Monde and Mediapart, as well as the Berne Declaration, a Swiss NGO, have identified him and associates in linked companies as being the target of a US probe into an alleged corruption and money-laundering case involving the acquisition of mining property in Guinea.

The criminal court noted the US Department of Justice made an official request for help from Swiss authorities into the case.

Steinmetz, an Israeli citizen who lives in Geneva, is alleged through one of his associates to have made payments and given gifts starting in 2006 to the wife of Lansana Conté, the former president of Guinea.

According to the US demand for judicial aid, these payments and gifts were made in return for her assistance in obtaining mining rights in one of Africa’s poorest countries.

Earlier media reports said that Benny Steinmetz in 2008, just before Conté’s death, obtained rights through one of his companies to the Simandou iron mine after it had spent $165 million exploring in the area.

Eighteen months later, the group reportedly sold a 51 percent cent share in the mining rights to Brazilian company Vale for $2.5 billion.

Business magazine Forbes, which estimated Steinmetz's wealth at $1.6 billion, reported online that Steinmetz had obtained the mining rights for free after Conté stripped them from Australian mining giant Rio Tinto.

 In 2011, Guinea’s first democratically elected president, Alpha Condé, launched an investigation into the mining contracts concluded by his predecessors, which led to the discovery of the “heist of the century”, implicating Steinmetz, according to Bern Declaration.

Steinmetz has denied the accusations, which caused widespread anger in a country where millions live in poverty, but Condé has stripped Steinmetz's company BSG Resources of rights to the iron ore.

In a 2013 interview with French-language newspaper L’Opinion, he accused the current Guinean leader of “leading a campaign of disinformation”, intended to soil his reputation and that of his company.

The American interest in the case relates to the fact that alleged bribery payments were made to a bank account or accounts in the US.

Among the documents being sought are those seized from Steinmetz’s home and his private jet, the ATS news agency reported.

In August 2013, police in Geneva seized documents during a raid of the offices of Onyx Financial Advisers, which was providing management services for a company linked to Steinmetz.

Story continues below…

Police in France, meanwhile, seized documents from the home of one of Steinmetz’s associates living in a French community near Geneva.

The criminal court rejected all of the arguments advanced by Steinmetz’s Geneva lawyer, Marc Bonnant.

Last month, the Swiss supreme court released another decision approving the transfer of the same documents sought by the US to justice authorities in Guinea, ATS reported.

The Bern Declaration on its website said Steinmetz has built an "extremely complicated web of companies, which he controls from Geneva" but includes entities based in various tax havens, including Guernsey, the British Virgin Islands and Liechtenstein.

"This sophisticated structure enables him to diminish his legal responsibilities and optimize his taxes," the NGO said. 

For more news from Switzerland, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.ch)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Police discover body buried in Orbe house
File photo: Bas Leenders

Police have opened an investigation after finding a body buried in a house in Orbe, in the canton of Vaud, on Saturday.

Valais shaken by 4.2 magnitude earthquake
The earthquake hit in the canton of Valais near Sierre. Photo: Alain Rouiller

It's the biggest earthquake to hit the country for two years.

Swiss Indoors kicks off without champ Federer
Federer celebrates with ball girls and boys after winning the event in 2015. Photo: Harold Cunningham/Pool/AFP

Stan Wawrinka is top seed as injured Federer sits it out.

IOC hires Russian doping whistleblower as consultant
IOC President Thomas Bach confirmed the news. File photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has hired Vitaly Stepanov as a consultant and is helping his runner wife Yuliya.

‘Scary clown’ craze hits streets of Zurich
Photo: Pedro Pardo/AFP

Police in Zurich have warned so-called ‘scary clowns’ that they could face charges, following a number of incidents in the city.

VIDEO: driver chases runaway car on Swiss motorway
Image: Neuchâtel police

Shocking footage shows the moment a man dodged lorries to chase after his runaway car on a Swiss motorway.

Saas-Fee crowdfunds low-cost season ski pass
Saas-Fee is hoping to attract 99,999 season pass holders. Photo: Denis Emery/Photo-genic.ch

Skiers could get their hands on a whole season pass for just 222 francs ($223) in the Swiss resort of Saas Fee this winter – if enough people want one.

Swiss billionaire fined for dodging import tax
Urs Schwarzenbach owns the luxury Dolder Grand hotel in Zurich. Photo: Wilhem Rosenkranz

Urs Schwarzenbach faces a $4 million fine for failing to properly declare some 200 artworks imported into Switzerland.

Muslim woman wins headscarf court battle
Photo: Jack Guez / AFP

A Swiss court has ruled against a company that fired a longtime employee after she began wearing the Muslim headscarf.

Montreux throws hat in Olympic rings
Could Montreux host the 2026 Games? Photo: Ivo Scholz/Swiss Tourism

Montreux is to put itself forward as the host city for the 2026 winter Olympics as part of a potential bid by the cantons of Valais and Vaud.

Photo: Richard Juilliard/AFP
Man makes Geneva airport bomb threat ‘for a joke’
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Photo: AFP
Solar Impulse team reveals plans for unmanned plane
File photo: Martin Abegglen
Swiss to vote on passport rules for 3rd gen foreigners
Photo: AFP
Swiss wingsuit hotspot Lauterbrunnen won’t impose ban
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Six reasons Switzerland isn’t as boring as you might think
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Report: Switzerland one of world’s best places for girls
Photo: The Local
Thief returns Swiss cow bells worth thousands
File photo: Wikimedia Commons
One in three rapists isn’t locked up: statistics
Photo: activistin.ch
Tampon-tax protest turns Zurich fountains red
Photo: AFP
Geneva police to lift ban on bearded officers
Photo: Marcel Gillieron/AFP
Suicide chef’s restaurant keeps Michelin stars
Photo: Lara de Salis
11 things the Swiss get tired of hearing abroad
Photo:  Ivo Scholz/Swiss-image.ch
Survey: expats in Switzerland have money but few friends
Photo: AFP
Swiss press criticize Bern’s 'capitulation' on immigration
Photo: Jura Trois Lacs tourism
German ex-policeman is Swiss city’s new hermit
Photo: Dmitry A. Mottl
Ticino votes to favour local workers over foreigners
Photo: file
Some deodorants could cause breast cancer: Swiss study
Photo: Royal Savoy
In pictures: Inside the latest Swiss luxury hotel
Photo: AFP
Geneva airport bomb hoaxer faces 90,000-franc bill
Photo: Schaffhausen police
Mother leaves toddler son alone in car to go clubbing
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
Swiss populist attacked by knife-wielding pensioner
jobs available