A Geneva court Friday found Israeli businessman Beny Steinmetz guilty of corruption and forgery following a two-week trial. A former citizen of Switzerland, Steinmetz and two of his associates faced the two charges for paying $10 million as bribes to receive permits for mining iron ore in Guinea and for forging documents to mask the bribery.
Judge Alexandra Banna said that Steinmetz and his codefendants set up shell companies and fake accounts to cover up the payments that were used as bribes. In her statement, the judge also mentioned that despite Steinmetz’s immediate profits from obtaining exploration rights to mine the area, none of the profits actually went to Guinea.
The prosecution had accused Steinmetz of bribing one of former Guinea President Lansana Conté’s wives. Shortly before Conté passed away in 2008, Steinmetz obtained the exploration rights after paying bribes for several years.
Steinmetz’s defense focused on the idea that he was the owner and face of Beny Steinmetz Group Resources but had no involvement in the daily operations of the company. The Swiss court sentenced Steinmetz to five years in jail and a fine equivalent to over $56 million. Following the conviction, he reasserted his innocence and his lawyer said that he will appeal the decision on Saturday.
A number of American companies are also being investigated for their participation in the payments but have not been charged.