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Cyprus detains Israel mining magnate

September 5, 2023 at 10:56 am

French-Israeli diamond magnate Beny Steinmetz (C), flanked by his lawyers Christian Luscher (L) and Daniel Kinzer, arrives for a hearing to appeal against a corruption sentence linked to mining rights in Guinea, at the courthouse of Geneva on August 29, 2022 [FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images]

Israeli mining magnate Beny Steinmetz has been detained in Cyprus on a Romanian arrest warrant, a spokesperson for Steinmetz said on Sunday, Reuters reported.

Steinmetz is at the centre of a case dating back several years relating to his involvement in a group that allegedly tried to illegally secure land rights in Romania. He has already faced arrest in some other European countries on the Romania-issued warrant but was cleared.

The arrest coincides with the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Cyprus, where police also announced the arrest of five Israelis suspected of raping a British tourist.

Steinmetz is expected to appear before a Cypriot court later this week. A magistrate in the town of Larnaca on 1 September ordered his detention pending translation of the warrant, judicial sources said.

Steinmetz was detained on Thursday “during his arrival at Larnaca airport, due to a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) issued by the Romanian authorities, which has already been cancelled in various European countries, among them Greece and Italy,” his spokesperson said.

Cyprus police had no immediate comment.

“Beny Steinmetz welcomes the opportunity to be vindicated in one more European State, against Romania, a country infamous for its disrespect to human rights,” Steinmetz’s spokesperson said in a statement.

The Romanian Supreme Court had issued a five-year prison sentence against the Israeli-French businessman in December 2020. He has appealed the decision.

Steinmetz is involved in a separate legal battle in Switzerland where he has been found guilty of corruption in a case related to exploration concessions for iron ore in Guinea.

In April, a Swiss court upheld the 2021 conviction against Steinmetz for bribing public officials in Guinea to secure a multibillion-dollar iron ore mining concession.

Steinmetz continues to argue that Swiss judges had misinterpreted how he obtained the mining rights to Semandu, the world’s richest untapped iron ore mine and is appealing the decision.

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