Mining billionaire Beny Steinmetz arrested at Athens airport

(Bloomberg) – Beny Steinmetz, the Israeli billionaire convicted of corruption weeks apart in Romania and Switzerland, is stranded in Greece after being pulled over by local police more than two weeks ago when the private jet in which he was landed at Athens airport.

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Steinmetz was arrested on November 24 under an international arrest warrant but released 24 hours later on condition that he did not leave Greece, according to Romanian authorities. His arrest, coordinated by Greece and Romania following his conviction for a corruption case in Bucharest last December, was reported earlier Thursday by AFP.

“I can confirm that Mr. Steinmetz was delayed at Athens airport due to a serious failure to communicate the removal of the Interpol Red Notice,” said Eitan Maoz, counsel for the ‘business man. “We are handling this business and hope that Mr. Steinmetz will quickly return his home and businesses.”

Interpol Red Notices are demands for law enforcement around the world to arrest someone. Interpol lists some but not all of the Red Notices it publishes on its website, and Steinmetz is not among those currently listed on the site.

Steinmetz, 65, made his money in the diamond trade, before securing the rights to the Simandou mine in Geneva, the world’s richest untapped iron ore deposit, in Guinea. This investment should have been his crowning achievement, but instead it sparked years of legal headaches that culminated in his conviction by a Geneva court in January for bribing Guinean officials to secure Simandou’s rights. .

A French and Israeli citizen, he has also been the subject of investigations in the United States and Israel, where he was briefly detained in 2016 and placed under house arrest.

It’s unclear how long Steinmetz will be stranded in Greece – it could take up to 90 days for a hearing to take place. The extradition treaty between the two countries is governed by European Union law.

Read more: Steinmetz sentenced to 5 years in prison in Swiss corruption case

The Romanian Ministry of Justice issued a European arrest warrant linked to his conviction in Romania, which they sent to their Greek counterparts. The procedure for this mandate is “currently underway,” Romania’s justice ministry said, declining to give further details.

Steinmetz’s lawyer at the time of his sentencing said he would appeal the verdict because his client was never part of a bribery pact and the court failed to properly account for “fragility” testimony against him. Daniel Kinzer, Steinmetz’s new Swiss lawyer, is in court on Thursday and was not immediately available for comment. Steinmetz is also appealing the Romanian conviction.

Hours after his conviction in Switzerland, Steinmetz was allowed to return to Israel due to a quirk in Swiss law. To encourage him to testify, his lawyers received assurances from the court before the trial that he would not be detained.

Steinmetz’s lawyers also appealed the Romanian conviction, citing irregularities in the prosecution of the case, according to Israeli press reports.

(Updates with comment by counsel for Steinmetz in the third paragraph)

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