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‘I am innocent’, Israeli mining magnate says at end of Swiss appeal

Israeli diamond magnate Beny Steinmetz, right, with his lawyer, Christian Luescher, arrive at a courthouse in Geneva, Switzerland,  August 31, 2022. (Fabrice COFFRINI/ AFP)
Israeli diamond magnate Beny Steinmetz, right, with his lawyer, Christian Luescher, arrive at a courthouse in Geneva, Switzerland, August 31, 2022. (Fabrice COFFRINI/ AFP)

A French-Israeli businessman appealing against his conviction in one of the mining sector’s biggest-ever corruption cases insists on his innocence and hopes the Swiss court will give him justice.

Mining tycoon Beny Steinmetz was found guilty in 2021 of setting up a complex financial web to pay bribes to ensure his company could obtain permits in Guinea’s southeastern Simandou region, which is estimated to contain the world’s biggest untapped iron ore deposits.

“I am innocent,” the 66-year-old tells AFP at the end of seven days of intense hearings.

The businessman, who made his fortune in diamonds, was sentenced by a Geneva court to five years in prison and ordered to pay 50 million Swiss francs ($52 million) in compensation.

But he insisted during the appeals court hearings that that verdict was deeply unfair, with his lawyers arguing the prosecution’s case was “very weak.”

“I have done nothing wrong,” Steinmetz says shortly before the court adjourned, telling the judges he had been “devastated” to hear how he was being portrayed.

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