Israeli diamond tycoon arrested in Cyprus over corruption conviction in Romania

International arrest warrant against Beny Steinmetz has already been rejected by Greece and Italy over human rights concerns; businessman has appealed his guilty verdict

French-Israeli diamond magnate Beny Steinmetz (L) arrives with his lawyers for his trial in Geneva on January 11, 2020. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP)
French-Israeli diamond magnate Beny Steinmetz (L) arrives with his lawyers for his trial in Geneva on January 11, 2020. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP)

French-Israeli mining tycoon Beny Steinmetz was arrested in Cyprus on the basis of an arrest warrant issued by Romania for a corruption conviction.

Steinmetz was detained when he arrived at Larnaca airport last Thursday.

The following day a court extended his remand and declined to release him with restrictions, the Ynet outlet reported Sunday.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry is aware of the situation, according to Hebrew-language media reports.

Romania convicted Steinmetz in absentia for real estate fraud and in December 2020 sentenced him to five years in prison.

The Romanians then issued a European arrest warrant against the businessman. In March 2022 Greece rejected the arrest order. Italy has also previously ruled against carrying it out.

A statement on behalf of Steinmetz said authorities in those two countries rejected the warrant “in view of the violation of his right to a fair trial — as well as the real risk of him being subjected to discriminatory, inhumane and humiliating treatment if he is extradited.”

The statement also noted that Interpol had canceled its own “red notice” to detain Steinmetz, effectively canceling the Romanian arrest warrant.

It was clear to Interpol authorities that the trial against Steinmetz was “politically motivated,” the statement said, adding that he is “sure that justice will prevail in Cyprus as well.”

Steinmetz has appealed his conviction at the European Court of Human Rights.

The Romanian affair concerns a real estate project Steinmetz was involved in during 2006-2008.

After the fall of the communist regime in Romania in 1989, the government allowed the restoration of private land to those who had lost it in the 1940s when the communists took over. Steinmetz was a partner and adviser to a body that held shares in a company that purchased the rights to land owned by a Romanian royal prince. That body was eventually accused of fraud.

Aside from the Romanian conviction, in 2021 Steinmetz was convicted of bribery in another corruption trial linked to mining rights in Guinea, and was sentenced to three years, of which half were to be served in prison.

An appeal against that conviction was rejected earlier this year. Steinmetz plans a further appeal against the conviction at the country’s highest court.

Steinmetz, who lives in Israel, will not serve any prison time until the appeals process has been exhausted.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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