Austrian Social Democrats Cut Ties With Tal Silberstein, Israeli Political Adviser Linked to Beny Steinmetz

The party has severed ties with Tal Silberstein after he was detained alongside billionaire Steinmetz and four other businessmen in Israel amid suspicions of money laundering

Beny Steinmetz and Tal Silberstein.
Beny Steinmetz and Tal Silberstein. Tomer Appelbaum, Moti Kimche

Austria’s Social Democratic Party has cut ties with Tal Silberstein, an Israeli political adviser detained Monday alongside Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz and four other businessmen amid suspicions of using fake contracts to launder money.

“Tal Silberstein advised the election campaign for the Social Democratic Party of Austria, and did social science research in the field of public opinion polling,” the Austrian APA-OTS news agency quoted the party’s campaign manager, Georg Niedermühlbichler, as saying. “The SPÖ is ceasing cooperation with Silberstein, effective immediately.”

Israeli media reported in December that Steinmetz was suspected of bribing the former leader of Guinea and his wife for rights to mine at the Simandou range, one of the world's largest sources of iron ore. Steinmetz's company BSGR previously had its mining license revoked in Guinea because of corruption charges.

In 2015, Romanian media reported that Steinmetz, former Yitzhak Rabin Chief of Staff Shimon Sheves and Silberstein, a former adviser to Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, were suspected of involvement in illicit real estate deals that cost the Romanian government more than $160 million.

Earlier Monday, Steinmetz and the four other businessmen were detained and questioned under caution, meaning they might be charged with a crime.

David Granot, the recently appointed acting chairman of the Bezeq telecom group, was one of the five businessmen, the company said, but it was not yet clear who the other three were.

The police suspect that the five detainees used contracts for fictitious deals, including property deals in a foreign country, to move money around and launder illegal profits.