The man behind $9 million state-of-the-art Steinmetz factory at the Gaborone Diamond Technology Park, Beny Steinmetz is being investigated by Swiss authorities following a request by the government of Guinea.
Steinmetz , Israel’s richest person who owns the Gaborone Steinmetz plant specially designed to cut labour-intensive 3 grainer-up stones as well as the large and special stones that require expert skills and handling this week agreed to be interviewed by Swiss authorities as part of an investigation relating to ownership of a Guinean iron-ore project.
Steinmetz is expected to meet with the office of Geneva’s public prosecutor in the city within the next four weeks, said the person, who was briefed on the matter and asked not to be identified as the investigation is confidential. Henri Della Casa, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, declined to comment on the planned interview.
At the time of going to press, it was not clear if the Swiss investigation will affect the Gaborone operation; however spokesperson for Guinea government, Albert Damatang Camara told the international media that, “what is taking place in Switzerland is a part of an international investigation which involves many countries,”
Steinmetz has a net worth of $7.4 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, and his BSG Resources Ltd. owns a 49 percent stake in a venture that controls half of the giant Simandou iron ore deposit in Guinea. Steinmetz has offered to collaborate with Swiss authorities and is co-operating fully, his lawyer Marc Bonnant said this week.
It is understood that Steinmetz’s Geneva home was raided two weeks ago by Swiss Police following a request by the government of Guinea, but no documents were taken away.
Guinea’s actions against Steinmetz and BSG Resources are a “campaign of intimidation and malicious lies, which are an attempt to damage his impeccable reputation,” Bonnant said.
The West African country is reviewing mining licenses including the one for Simandou, which was once described as the world’s largest untapped deposit of the steelmaking raw material. In April, a U.S. grand jury investigation began into claims that bribes were paid by BSG Resources for mining rights in Guinea. No charges have been filed.
Guinea’s request for assistance from Swiss authorities is part of ongoing attempts to “expropriate illegally” mining rights over Simandou held by BSG Resources, the company was quoted saying. BSG Resources said in March that Guinea was preparing to remove mining rights from its joint venture with Brazil’s Vale SA, which plans a $10 billion mining operation at Simandou. The deposit is split into four blocks. Steinmetz’s company gained control of blocks 1 and 2 after the government ordered Rio Tinto Group to hand them over in 2008.