Billionaire, political adviser to leave custody after corruption arrest

Beny Steinmetz and Tal Silberstein will be freed under restrictive conditions after reaching an agreement with police

Israeli tycoon Beny Steinmetz seen at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court, August 14, 2017. (Flash90)
Israeli tycoon Beny Steinmetz seen at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court, August 14, 2017. (Flash90)

Israeli police said Thursday that a prominent billionaire businessman and a political consultant arrested this week on an array of charges will be released under restrictive conditions.

Spokeswoman Luba Samri said that Beny Steinmetz, a Geneva-based diamond-mining magnate, and Tal Silberstein, a former adviser to the Austrian chancellor, reached an agreement where they will be released after their extended remand Friday. She did not elaborate on the terms of their release.

The two were arrested earlier this week on charges including money laundering, obstruction of justice and bribery following a joint investigation with Swiss and American authorities. Several others were also detained, including acting chairman of the Bezeq telecommunications giant David Ganot.

Austria’s Social Democratic Party severed relations with Silberstein after his arrest Monday.

Steinmetz, who made billions as a diamond and mining magnate, had previously been arrested on December 19 and accused of paying millions of dollars in bribes in the Republic of Guinea in exchange for advancing his business interests in the country.

He was held under house arrest at the time and later released. According to Forbes, he is worth $1.02 billion, making him one of Israel’s richest people.

Tal Silberstein seen at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court, August 14, 2017. (Flash90)
Tal Silberstein seen at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court, August 14, 2017. (Flash90)

The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court approved the agreement and as a result there will not be a court session about their arrest, the Samri said.

In December 2015 it was reported that Zilberstein and Steinmetz were suspected of involvement in a 136-million-euro corruption scandal in Romania.

Judicial sources in Bucharest had said they believed Steinmetz and Zilberstein conspired with the Romanian businessman Remus Truica to illicitly transfer state-held lands to another Romanian citizen at an alleged cost to the state of nearly $150 million, the Romania Libera daily reported at the time.

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