A BILLIONAIRE diamond magnate has appeared in court accused of paying $10million of bribes to win mining rights in Guinea which he sold for a massive profit.
Beny Steinmetz, 64, is said to have paid government officials through Swiss bank accounts.
His firm BSGR bought the rights to the world’s largest untapped iron ore deposits in the Simandou mountains for around $160million in 2008 — then sold half of them for $2.5billion 18 months later.
The French-Israeli — previously sentenced in his absence to five years for money laundering in Romania — faces ten years in prison if convicted at his trial in Geneva.
Prosecutors claim the bribes were paid with help of Mamadie Toure, widow of former Guinea president Lansana Conte, and that Steinmetz forged documents.
But Ms Toure — described as star witness for the prosecution — now lives in the US and is unlikely to appear in court. Steinmetz’s lawyer Marc Bonnant has insisted he ‘never paid a cent’ to her, and that she was not married to Conte.
He said: ‘She is not a public agent and therefore cannot be corrupted. We will plead his innocence.’
Despite vast natural resources, Guinea is one of the poorest countries in Africa.
Its government stripped BSGR of mining rights in 2014, claiming evidence of corruption, which the company denied.
Steinmetz has insisted: ‘People don’t like success.’