BSGR President Asher Avidan Arrested In Guinea Bribery Probe

After Beny Steinmetz was placed under house arrest yesterday, Asher Avidan one of his top executives was arrested by Israel Police today.

After Beny Steinmetz was questioned for hours yesterday and released to his home under restrictions, one of his top executives BSGR President Asher Avidan was arrested today.

Avidan, who was head of mining operations in Steinmetz’s holding company, was questioned by the Israel Police National Fraud Unit under caution for several hours.

Israel Police is continuing to investigate suspicions that Steinmetz bribed President Alpha Conde of Guinea and his wife with tens of millions of dollars, for iron mining rights in the African country. Suspicions are that the mining rights generated hundreds of millions of dollars in profits in 2006-2012.

In addition, Steinmetz is suspected of money laundering.

Avidan, who was questioned today is suspected of being part of a global affair. In 2013, he was banned from entering Guinea, after the country’s government had started reexamining Steinmetz’s mining rights in the Simandou mountain iron deposit. Suspicions are that further Israeli businessmen, mainly residing abroad, are involved in this affair, and allegedly took part in bribing senior Guinean officials, in exchange for furthering their business interests in the country.

“False allegations”

The Rishon Lezion Magistrates Court yesterday released Steinmetz for house arrest under restrictions until January 2. Conditions include a ban on contacting anyone involved in the affair, banishment from office for 30 days, NIS 100 million financial guarantees, NIS 50 million of them in cash. At the same time as Steinmetz was arrested, the police raided his home and offices, also seizing documents.

Steinmetz’s attorney Adv. Yuval Sasson told “Globes” that all suspicions against his client will turn out to be unfounded. “There were no bribes, BSGR (Steinmetz’s company-C.M.) did not pay bribes, Steinmetz did not pay bribes; the ones who did pay bribes were others who did it to rob Steinmetz’s company of its mining rights, while making false allegations against Steinmetz and the company. We are already used to this, because everything that is happening here is part of Guinean government efforts to seize BSGR’s iron mine (Simandou) rights.”

Adv. Sasson says, “This is the height of cynicism.

The cynical move is that the individual who received the bribe (Guinean President Alpha Conde) is trying to frame an innocent person (Beny Steinmetz and the company).

And all of this is done to give those really paying the bribes (BSGR’s competitor Rio Tinto Ltd. (NYSE; LSE; ASX: RIO) and a US investment fund) what they desire (the mine).

Steinmetz has been telling this to the world for four years, and no one is willing to believe him.” Sasson adds, “four years ago, the son of the former president of Gabon was arrested in the US. A short time later a sort of a plea bargain with the US investment fund was reported, in which they admitted to hiring him to bribe President Alpha Conde in order to secure their mining rights in Guinea.

And then another event happened, both in the US and in the UK, when Rio Tinto, one of the world’s two largest mining companies, fired its legal counsel and head of the its mines division after they were found to bribe the same Conde with $10 billion.”

Was it possible to do business in Africa at that time without graft?

“The claim that it is impossible to do business in Africa without being corrupt is false as well as racist.” Sasson says that he has been in contact with the Office of the State Attorney for a year in order to prove Steinmetz’s claim. “He has been in contact with the Office of the State Attorney for over a year, during which we have asked to bring all of the documents and make our case. Unfortunately, this did not take place.”

Why would they refuse to meet with you?

“I am not analyzing other people’s considerations and do not know the reason.”

How come Steinmetz was ‘handled with silk gloves’ during his arrest? Contrary to the accepted procedure, he was released for a house arrest and was not brought before a judge and before the press cameras.

“While the story you have created here might bring me a lot of clients, it still a fiction. Every day, dozens of people are arrested in Israel and are not brought before a judge because they are released under restriction at the police station.

Once we have reached an agreement with the police regarding house arrest conditions, there was no obligation to involve a judge, and this happens a lot. Steinmetz did not receive any special treatment here.”

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