Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz, a well-known strategic adviser and three other businessmen were detained for questioning under caution on Monday over allegedly using fake contracts to move and launder money.
The homes and offices of some of them were raided by law enforcement Monday morning.
Technically the suspicions center on forgery, use of a forged document, money laundering, fraud, breach of trust, obstruction of justice and more.
Steinmetz was arrested in December for his suspected role in a sprawling corruption case involving tens of millions of dollars.
The police suspect that the five detainees and central suspect systemically made use of contracts for nonexistent deals, including property deals in a foreign country, to move money around and launder ill-gotten gains.
International law enforcement is involved in cracking the case, say Israeli sources.
In 2015, Romanian media reported that Steinmetz, former Yitzhak Rabin chief of staff Shimon Sheves and former adviser to Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert Tal Silberstein were suspected of being involved in illicit real estate deals that costed the Romanian government more than $160 million.
In December 2016, Steinmetz, 60, who controls vast mining operations in Africa, among other things, was sent to house arrest in Israel in the same case, involving his mining firm BSG Resources. The Israeli police alleged that he and other Israeli expatriate had paid tens of millions of dollars to officials in Guinea to advance their businesses.
Steinmetz’s release to house arrest back then was conditional on his agreement to stay in Israel for 180 days and on a guarantee of 100 million shekels ($26 million).
The investigation into BSGR began in Guinea, which was retroactively looking into the allocation of mining rights to the Simandou deposit, the world’s largest untapped iron ore reserves, in 2008.
BSGR has denied the allegations of wrong-doing throughout and countered, in December, that Guinea was recycling old allegations and was illegally trying to take back the mining rights.
In 2014, Guinea accepted a report recommending that two iron ore concessions allocated to BSGR be voided on the grounds that they had been obtained by corrupt means.
BSGR said it denied corruption allegations and would seek arbitration.
In April 2017, apparently not despairing of regaining the mining rights of which it had been stripped,
BSGR sued none other than the billionaire George Soros, who had been advising the Guineans, for allegedly scuttling the iron mining deal by manipulating the Guinean government, and claimed $10 billion in damages.
Soros fabricated smears about BSGR, the company claimed, writing, “Soros was motivated solely by malice, as there was no economic interest he had in Guinea.”
Soros’ representatives rebutted that the claim was frivolous and a “desperate PR stunt meant to deflect attention from BSGR’s mounting legal problems across multiple jurisdictions”.
Arbitration over Simandou began in May.
BSGR used the venue to claim that its rival, the Brazilian giant Rio Tinto, acted unlawfully when it had obtained mining rights in Simandou in 1997, by deliberately moving slowly to frustrate potential rivals.
“The longer it locked up mining in Guinea, the longer Rio could charge higher prices for the mining it was doing in the rest of the world,” James Libson of Mishcon de Reya, acting for BSGR stated, according to the Telegraph. Steinmetz himself testified to the arbitrators by videolink.
Meanwhile, in late July, the U.K. announced that its Serious Fraud Office had opened an investigation into Rio Tinto’s dealings in Guinea, noting that in November 2016, the company had fired two executives for involvement in corruption.