Swiss police raided the Geneva home of the world's richest Israeli, billionaire and diamond mogul Beny Steinmetz, Bloomberg reported on Thursday.
According to the report, a person briefed on the matter who wishes to remain anonymous because of the confidentiality of the ongoing investigation, said the raid took place in the last two weeks, and that it was ordered by Geneva's public prosecutor, following a request by the government of Guinea.
According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Steinmetz, 57, has a net worth of $7.4 billion,. BSG Resources Ltd., his mining company, owns a 51 percent stake in the Simandou iron ore deposit in Guinea. Last April, a U.S. grand jury investigation was launched into claims that BSG Resources paid bribes for mining rights in the West African country.
BSG Resources denied the accusations on Thursday, alleging that the Guinean government was waging a smear campaign against Steinmetz.
Steinmetz first amassed his fortunes in the diamond trade, joining forces with his brother Daniel Steinmetz in the 1980's to do business in several African countries, as well as India. Steinmetz moved to Geneva in 2010.
In November of last year, Steinmetz's business empire accused the government of Guinea of seeking to "illegally seize" its assets through the probe into how it won rights to mine part of a major iron ore deposit.
Relations between Guinea's government and mining firms operating in the resource-rich nation have been strained since the government began a review of its mining code, aiming to boost the state share in projects and reassess all of the country's resource contracts. Guinea enlisted philanthropist George Soros' help last year as part of a push to review the operation of the mining sector and fight corruption, saying it did not have the funds to employ commercial consultants as advisers.
BSG Resources Ltd. on Thursday accused the Guinean government and Soros, as well as various NGOs, of conducting a "campaign of intimidation and malicious lies."
In a statement, the firm has said that for the past five months, two of its employees have been detained in Conakry, the capital of Guinea, without charge, despite a court order requiring their release.
The Guinean government, the statement said, has requested the Swiss authorities to collect information on its behalf "in attempt to justify their illegal detention."
The firm further alleged that the raid was linked to the government's "attempts to expropriate illegal mining rights belonging to BSGR at Simandou in south eastern Guinea."
"Mr. Steinmetz offered to collaborate with the Swiss authorities, is cooperating fully, and is very happy to do so,” Marc Bonnant, Steinmetz's lawyer said in a statement. "… Mr Steinmetz will not be deterred by this campaign of intimidation and malicious lies, which are an attempt to damage his impeccable reputation. He has nothing to hide."
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