Mudslinging and corruption claims between London mining giants and tycoons over control of one of Africa’s most-lucrative mineral deposits erupted yesterday as controversial diamond billionaire Beny Steinmetz lodged allegations of a major conspiracy in an international arbitration court.
Mr Steinmetz’s company, BSGR, has been accused of bribery in the way it was handed mining concessions in the impoverished country of Guinea – allegations he denies.
Citing such allegations of impropriety, the Guinea government earlier this year stripped him of the assets, which the country’s previous dictator-president had taken from FTSE 100 miner Rio Tinto and awarded to him.
Now, the tycoon, whose acquisition of the Guinean rights has been the subject police investigations on three continents, has launched an arbitration process to stop Guinea selling them on. His claim against the country at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes states the current president, Alpha Condé, conspired with a group of South African businessmen to rig the election that brought him to power in March 2010.
In return for their money and help, the filing claims, they would be given a slice of the country’s mining rights when Mr Condé came to power. These rights, the claim alleges, included those owned by Mr Steinmetz. The election was rigged, Mr Steinmetz claims, and Mr Condé won. The President has denied such allegations.
A spokesman for the Guinean government said: “Guinea will leave it to the arbitration process to decide the strength of the evidence produced by both parties and is confident that the claims made by BSGR will be defeated.”
The case goes on to argue that the billionaire philanthropist George Soros worked with the President to draft a new mining code that would re-examine previous licence awards and effectively mean the Steinmetz licenses were illegal. It alleges Mr Soros then encouraged an NGO he finances, Global Witness, to launch a “smear campaign” against Mr Steinmetz’s firm.
A spokesman for Mr Soros declined to comment, but Global Witness argued Mr Soros has no influence over its activities, adding that his foundations are only one of several funders, including Britain’s Department for International Development.
It added: “Any allegations against us of a conspiracy are part of a smear campaign to distract attention from the real story, which is that there are law-enforcement investigations in several countries into how BSGR obtained a valuable iron ore concession in an impoverished country.”Reuse content