Travel Ban on Israeli Billionaire Steinmetz Extended as Police Continue Bribery Probe

Police accuse billionaire Steinmetz of seeking to disrupt investigation centering around allegations that millions in bribes were paid in Guinea

Beny Steinmetz.
Tomer Appelbaum

Beny Steinmetz, the billionaire suspected of giving tens of millions of dollars in bribes to senior officials in Guinea, was ordered not to leave Israel for another two months in order for the police to complete their investigation abroad without fear of interference.

>> Diamonds, Big Mining and George Soros: The fall of Beny Steinmetz, once Israel's richest man <<

Judge Amit Michles of Rishion Letzion Magistrate’s Court issued the order after hearing what Police Chief Superintendent Ariel Friedman called “recent dramatic developments in the investigation” and allegations that Steinmetz sought to have evidence abroad destroyed and tried to have a key witness dispose of relevant documents.

Ronen Rosenbloom, the attorney representing Steinmetz, said his client had been cooperating with the police in expectation that he would be able to prove there were no basis for the allegations against him but that things suddenly changed when he was put under house arrest in December.

Steinmetz himself spoke in court. He complained that the travel ban was disrupting his business. “They have done me a great injustice... There is a conspiracy against us consisting of a president in a corrupt country, mediated and financially and mentally assisted by George Soros,” he told the court.

Guinea accuses Steinmetz’s mining company BSGR of obtaining the rights to the Simandou mine, the world’s largest untapped iron ore reserves, through illicit payments in 2008. Steinmetz's company sued Soros, the billionaire hedge fund investor, in April, asserting that he had run a disinformation campaign against Steinmetz in connection with the affair.

Steinmetz was released from house arrest in January, conditional on his agreeing not to leave Israel for 180 days and on his depositing a guarantee of 100 million shekels ($28.3 million).

Thursday’s travel ban was also extended for Asher Avidan, a former head of BSGR’s operations in Guinea, who was arrested with Steinmetz last December.