| TEL AVIV
TEL AVIV Dec 20 Israeli police said on Tuesday
they have arrested a second businessman in an investigation
concerning allegations of bribery and corruption in Africa
involving mining billionaire Beny Steinmetz.
"The suspect arrested today will appear before the court as
the investigation advances," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld
said in a statement without identifying the second businessman.
Steinmetz was placed under house arrest on Monday. Along
with other Israelis living abroad, he is alleged to have paid
tens of millions of dollars to senior public officials in Guinea
to advance their businesses, police said.
Rosenfeld did not say whether the man arrested on Tuesday
was linked to Steinmetz's mining company, BSG Resources (BSGR).
He said police were investigating "bribery of a foreign public
employee and money laundering."
The joint investigation is being conducted by agencies from
the United States, Switzerland, Guinea and Israel in
coordination with the OECD.
A review by the OECD's Working Group on Bribery in 2015
recommended Israel step up its enforcement efforts.
"Israel is not sufficiently proactive in detecting and
investigating foreign bribery, with no prosecutions over the
past seven years, despite 14 allegations of foreign bribery
involving Israeli individuals or companies," the review said.
The 60-year-old Steinmetz, who also has French citizenship,
will remain under house arrest until Jan. 2. His Israeli and
French passports have been confiscated and bail set at 50
million shekels ($13 million) in cash and another 50 million
shekels in property.
BSGR said in a statement on Monday the allegations were
baseless and Yuval Sasson, a lawyer for Steinmetz and BSGR in
Israel, said the proceedings were "a recycling of an old process
led by the government of Guinea ... in order to illegally
expropriate BSGR's mining rights".
In an interview with Israel Army Radio on Tuesday, when
asked how Steinmetz's spirits were, Sasson said he was "strong
and more determined than ever to prove his innocence".
BSGR described Steinmetz as an adviser to the company, which
is headquartered in the Channel Islands and is a mining arm of
Steinmetz's business conglomerate.
A BSGR spokesman told Reuters that Steinmetz does not sit on
BSGR's board or have an executive role, but "is the beneficiary
of the foundation which owns BSG Resources".
As part of international efforts to improve transparency,
the Guinean government under President Alpha Conde, elected in
2010, launched a review of mining contracts signed before 2011.
Within its review the West African nation investigated how
BSGR obtained the rights to the Simandou deposit, the world's
largest untapped iron ore reserves, in 2008.
Anglo-Australian mining group Rio Tinto and
BSGR have made legal claims against each other over the mining
rights in Simandou.
(Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem and Barbara
Lewis in London; Editing by Greg Mahlich)