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Swiss prosecutor eyeing jail terms for Steinmetz, 2 others in Simandou case

A Swiss prosecutor is seeking prison terms of up to 10 years for Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz and two associates for alleged illegal payments of about US$10 million related to the Simandou iron ore project in Guinea, Reuters reported Aug. 12.

Prosecutor Claudio Mascotto, who launched the investigation in 2013, said the three persons in question were identified as having promised in 2005 and then paid or had bribes paid to one of the wives of former Guinean President Lansana Conte in order to secure mining rights over the deposits. The other two defendants were not named.

The three are being indicted in Geneva, where the alleged illegal payments transited.

Earlier this year, Steinmetz's BSG Resources Ltd. decided to abandon Simandou as part of a settlement with the Guinea government. In July, the West African nation launched an international tender for blocks one and two of the deposit previously held by BSG Resources.

The country's mines minister, Abdoulaye Magassouba, told Reuters that the government had no hand in attempting to prosecute Steinmetz, given a settlement reached in February.

"We have signed specific agreements with Steinmetz and we will fully respect the terms of the agreement. It is not possible for a hostile action against BSG to come from the government," he said.

A bankruptcy proceeding filed by BSG Resources in the U.S. in June may hinder Vale SA from collecting a US$2 billion arbitration award over fraudulent misrepresentations BSG made related to Vale's purchase of a stake in the Simandou project.