Authorities in Guinea have detained a senior official with the local unit of Israeli mining firm BSG Resources (BSGR) and are questioning him over corruption allegations, an official familiar with the case said on Sunday.
Ibrahima Sory Toure, a vice president in Guinea of Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz's mining company, was taken into custody by police on Friday.
"Toure's detention in linked to an inquiry relating to allegations of corruption targeting the company BSGR," said a senior government official who asked not to be named.
The current Guinean government alleges that BSGR bribed officials and Mamadie Toure, the wife of former President Lansana Conte, to win a license to develop the northern half of the giant Simandou iron ore deposit.
Ibrahima Sory Toure is the brother of Mamadie Toure, who currently lives in the United States.
"My client was detained and is being questioned to obtain information about BSGR. For the moment no precise charges have been filed against him," Momo Sacko, Toure's lawyer, told Reuters.
Sacko said Toure's home had also been searched by the police and a number of documents and computers had been seized.
A police official said a second unnamed BSGR employee was also being questioned.
A committee of the Guinean government set up to review the legality of mining licenses is due in the coming weeks to report its findings on BSGR, which is in a partnership with Brazilian mining group Vale to develop the concession.
No charges have been brought in Guinea, however U.S. authorities are also investigating the Simandou deal.
Documents obtained by U.S. authorities investigating mining corruption in Guinea show Steinmetz's mining company promised to pay millions of dollars in Africa to win valuable mining concessions.
In court papers, the FBI described the documents as appearing to be contracts between BSGR and Mamadie Toure.
Experts say evidence of corruption could throw into question the future of one of the world's richest undeveloped deposits of iron ore.
BSGR denied allegations that it paid bribes for its concession. The firm has said it operates to the highest standards of corporate governance and has criticized the review, saying it is designed to allow Guinea to renege on its obligations.
"Allegations of fraud in obtaining our mining rights in Guinea are entirely baseless," a BSGR spokesman said on Friday. "We are confident that BSGR's position in Guinea will be fully vindicated."
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