Beny Steinmetz sues French satirical newspaper for libel

Israeli diamond billionaire Beny Steinmetz and BSG Resources are suing French satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné for libel, a spokesman for BSGR told Steel First on Tuesday October 1.

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Le Canard Enchaîné last week published allegations that Steinmetz and BSG Resources, the mining arm of his group of companies, were involved in funding militias in Guinea and in plotting a coup to unseat the country’s president, Alpha Condé.

The article was published just days before Guineans took to the polls in long-delayed legislative elections.

“These lies have not been evidenced and bear no relation to reality, either within BSGR or on the ground in Guinea,” BSG Resources said on September 30.

“These allegations are defamatory and extremely damaging to both BSGR’s and Mr Steinmetz’s reputations and business interests,” the statement added.

BSGR holds 50% of Guinean iron ore project Simandou, one of the world’s largest untapped reserves of iron ore.

The company acquired the concession in 2008 under the government of military dictator Lansana Conte, months after it had been stripped from mining major Rio Tinto, which still holds the rights to mine the other half of Simandou.

BSG Resources went on to sell a 51% stake in its Simandou concession to Brazilian mining major Vale in 2010 for $2.5 billion.

BSGR is being investigated for allegations of fraud and corruption concerning its acquisition of the Simandou licence by a review committee in Guinea, as part of mining sector reforms instituted by Condé, the country’s first democratically elected president.

The review has sparked a wider investigation, with companies controlled by or linked to Steinmetz now under investigation in connection with allegations of fraud and corruption in a total of six jurisdictions – the USA, the UK, France, Switzerland, Guernsey and Guinea.

Steinmetz and BSGR claim that Condé is conducting a smear campaign against them, and plans to expropriate its Simandou licence.

Conde’s office could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.