Israel arrests diamond magnate in corruption probe

BSG Resources says allegations 'baseless'

JERUSALEM - Israeli police placed diamond magnate Beny Steinmetz under house arrest on Monday as part of a corruption probe involving dealings in the African nation of Guinea, authorities said.
Steinmetz was arrested as part of a wide-ranging investigation involving tens of millions of dollars and including authorities in Israel, Guinea, the United States and Switzerland, Israeli police said in a statement.
The Israeli billionaire controls mining firm BSG Resources. He is suspected of involvement in bribery of a foreign public employee and money laundering, according to Israeli police.
Other Israelis living abroad are also under suspicion as part of the probe, they said.
Steinmetz, 60, was ordered to remain under house arrest until January 2 and will not be able to visit his Israeli offices.
He also cannot leave Israeli territory and his Israeli and French passports have been confiscated. He must also pay a bond of 100 million shekels ($26 million, 25 million euros), a statement from the justice ministry said.
BSG Resources issued a statement calling the allegations against Steinmetz "baseless".
"This development is in the aftermath of ongoing and what BSGR believes to be obsolete investigations against BSGR which were initiated by the government of Guinea since Alpha Conde came to power in 2011 to expropriate its assets," it said.
"BSGR has repeatedly demonstrated that these allegations of bribery are not only baseless, but are a systematic attempt by the current government of Guinea to cover up the endemic corruption which has blighted Guinea."
The west African nation has huge untapped deposits of diamonds, gold and uranium.
After his election as president in 2010 following years as an opposition leader, prisoner and exile, Conde launched a radical review of permits allotted under military dictator Lansana Conte.
The highest-profile victim of a permit withdrawal was the VBG consortium formed in 2010 by Brazilian mining giant Vale and Steinmetz's BSGR.
VBG was stripped of its concession in Guinea's Simandou mountains, a southeastern region estimated to contain the world's biggest untapped iron-ore deposit.
Conde said in 2014 that a probe had cleared Vale of any involvement in or knowledge of BSGR's allegedly corrupt obtaining of the permit.
In another case, Steinmetz was charged in Romania in May with "forming an organised criminal group, complicity in trading in influence and money laundering" in a property-related case that cost the state $145 million.