UK court orders hand over of Simandou-related documentsPublished by MAC on 2015-05-08
The complex struggle for Simandou's much valued iron ore deposits in Guinea continues, with a UK High Court order to force former Beny Steinmetz representatives to hand over key documents to the British Serious Fraud Office (SFO).
It can only be hoped that there will be a full disclosure, and that it will shed some light on this exceedingly murky affair.
Previous article on MAC: Rio Tinto sues Vale over iron ore rights in Guinea
Meanwhile, the SFO still has to address serious accusations of corruption, levelled against the former London-listed mining company ENRC more than two years ago.
BSGR ordered to hand over Simandou-related documents to UK anti-corruption body
8 May 2015
Lawyers for BSG Resources, the mining arm of Israeli tycoon Beny Steinmetz’s business empire, will have to surrender thousands of pages of documents related to the acquisition of Simandou, a iron ore mining project mired in allegations of corruption, expropriation and corporate espionage.
The decision, made by the UK High Court Thursday, forces BSGR representatives to hand out such documents — until now refused to be shared by the company — to the country’s anti-corruption agency, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), Financial Times reported.
BSGR was awarded rights over Guinea’s Simandou, one of the world's largest untapped iron ore deposits , a few days before the death of dictator Lansana Conté, in 2008, after spending more than $160 million exploring the prospect.
In 2010 the company sold a controlling half of its concession to Brazil’s Vale for $2.5 billion.
But when Guinea's new president, Alpha Condé, took charge he ordered all mining deals signed under his predecessors had to be reviewed.
As a result, BSGR was stripped of its mining rights last year and the Guinean government signed a new deal with Rio Tinto and its Chinese partner, Chinalco, to develop the two southern blocks they had held onto through all these. Rio had to pay $700 million, part of which was upfront taxes.
BSGR took the government of Guinea to an international arbitration court seeking compensation, but the process concluded instead that BSGR had gotten its concession through bribery. The company not only has refused such accusations, but also accused President Conté of concocting false corruption allegations against BSGR to justify, the seizure of its mining rights.
Shortly after, Rio filed a suit in New York against BSGR and Vale, claiming they conspired to steal the northern blocks. A series of lawsuits followed, making the Simandou rights case one of the most far-reaching corruption investigations of recent years.
So far neither BSGR nor Steinmetz have been charged in any of the probes.
The sought after iron ore deposits in Guinea are said to have the potential to transform the fortunes of the impoverished West African nation.
Mining company accused of bribing its way into the world's largest iron ore project claims it was victim of a conspiracy, High Court hears
BSGR claim the firm’s West African mine was seized by the Guinean President because he needed to pay off those who helped him allegedly rig his election
7 May 2015
A mining company accused of bribing its way to the world’s largest iron ore project and potentially billions of pounds in profits was the victim of an international conspiracy, the High Court has heard.
Lawyers for the Guernsey-based BSGR claimed the firm’s West African mine was unlawfully seized by the Guinean President Alpha Condé because he needed to pay off those who helped him allegedly rig his 2010 election.
The High Court heard President Condé conspired with wealthy South African businessmen and ANC leaders to become President of Guinea. He was claimed to have won the presidency using a company backed by South African intelligence officers which, the court was told, manipulated the ballot-counting operation and invented more than a million fictitious voters to support Mr Condé’s candidacy.
In return, Mr Condé is claimed to have repaid them after his victory with multi-million-pound mining contracts, including removing BSGR’s contracts to mine iron ore deposits in Simandou, southern Guinea. The contracts were instead given to a wealthy South African businessman, the court heard, who is said to have backed Mr Condé’s election bid with millions of dollars.
BSGR's lawyers claimed the firm’s West African mine was unlawfully seized by the Guinean President Alpha Condé (Getty Images) BSGR's lawyers claimed the firm’s West African mine was unlawfully seized by the Guinean President Alpha Condé (Getty Images)
When BSGR took the government of Guinea to an international arbitration court seeking compensation, President Condé is accused of concocting false corruption allegations against the company to justify the seizure of its mining rights.
The extraordinary claims were made as BSGR, which is owned by a controversial Israeli diamond trader Beny Steinmetz, challenged a demand by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) that the company and its British lawyers Mishcon de Reya provide tens of thousands of documents relating to the Guinean mining deals.
The SFO demand followed an international request by the Guinean government for help with its investigation into claims that BSGR secured the mining rights by bribing the former President of Guinea Lansana Conté. The company denies the corruption claims.
James Lewis QC, for BSGR, claimed the Guinean request was “politically motivated and made in bad faith” and should not have been agreed to by the Home Secretary Theresa May or the SFO. He said two company employees had been subjected to arbitrary arrest and jailed for seven months in the Guinean capital Conakry as part of a campaign organised by President Condé.
Rejecting the judicial review request, Lord Justice Nigel Davis said it wasn’t the place of the High Court to determine the truth of the allegations made, “particularly when the evidence is so contentious”.
In a statement, Dag Lars Cramer, chief executive of BSGR’s management company, said last night: “The decision is procedural only, and will allow BSGR to provide the SFO with information that can be passed on to the government of Guinea to demonstrate the absence of any wrongdoing by BSGR. We will continue to vigorously defend and pursue BSGR’s rightful and legal rights.”