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Israel Arrests Tycoon for Alleged Huge Corruption in Africa

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The struggle for worldwide economic justice just got some very good news from Israel. Authorities on December 19 arrested Beny Steinmetz, once the richest man in the country, on suspicions of massive corruption, including bribing and stealing billions from Guinea, one of the poorest nations in Africa. Steinmetz’s surprising but welcome apprehension raises the hope that Dan Gertler, another Israeli who has drained billions from the crisis-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, could also finally find himself pursued by justice.

At long last, the Steinmetz case should make clear that corrupt African politicians do not steal alone. There are no brib-ees without bribe-ers.

Steinmetz, 59, is a diamond merchant who was once worth $8 billion, and counts two Israeli prime ministers as friends. He is under investigation for his role developing the Simandou region in Guinea, which has rich iron ore deposits worth an estimated $20 billion.

Here are the astonishing facts. In 2008, the Guinean dictator, Lansana Conté, sold Steinmetz the exploration rights to the northern half of Simandou — for $160 million. Only two years later, the Israeli tycoon turned around and re-sold half of his holding to Vale, the international mining multinational — for $2.5 billion.

Meanwhile, Guinea had been restored to democracy, and the newly-elected president, Alpha Condé, was indignant at this obviously fraudulent deal. He sought to reverse it. But the international economic order is so powerful that President Condé could not just seize back Guinea’s iron deposits; he needed proof of wrongdoing to satisfy potential new investors. In this New Yorker article in 2013, Patrick Radden Keefe explains in detail how Guinea, working with international advisers and eventually the U.S. government, spent years tracking down one of the defunct dictator’s wives in Florida, and she agreed to cooperate with U.S. prosecutors.

Steinmetz’s appearance in the news is a big change from the usual Western press coverage of corruption in Africa, which focuses almost exclusively on Africans. You could read a long New York Times article about, say, the grotesque Obiang family dictatorship in Equatorial Guinea that never once mentioned Exxon, the biggest oil giant in the country and the source of some of the Obiang millions.

The Steinmetz investigation is global. In addition to Israeli police, prosecutors and tax officials, American and Swiss authorities are also looking into his bribes and shell companies. There have even been hints that Beny Steinmetz could be extradited to Guinea to face justice.

James North

James North is a Mondoweiss Editor-at-Large, and has reported from Africa, Latin America, and Asia for four decades. He lives in New York City.

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10 Responses

  1. xanadou on December 25, 2016, 2:28 pm

    Considering the number of billionaires in israel, this reads not like the, however sporadic, return of justice to israel. Rather, that Steinmetz may have tried to stiff

  2. xanadou on December 25, 2016, 3:04 pm

    (continued from the prematurely posted above) (sorry)

    (steinmetz may have tried to stiff) his usual partners in crime who expect the sacks of gold to keep their eyelids closed and ears plugged with the regular deliveries of bribes needed to keep the b/s of “safety in ghetto-israel” as an option for steinmetz. And/or the times they ARE a-changing and israel DOES need to placate and silence the hugely negative public opinion of Africans by scapegoating steinmetz in the hope that this will erase the age-old racist images and rhetoric.

    Putting more than a few token non-white israelis, regardless of their religious affiliation, in places of real power and advancing meaningful economic aid to African countries struggling to catch up with the rest of the world might work short term. However, I doubt this will work long term into History in the days of the internet and the permanence of everything plastered onto the WWW.

    Karma at work? I so very much hope so.

  3. Marnie on December 26, 2016, 12:06 am

    I hope somehow boobie dipped his beak here. His quick cut off of aid to Senegal for their ‘treachery’ wrt u.n. veto, seems typical of an angry tRUMPIAN-like dictator, but maybe theres more to it than meets the stamping of tiny feet. Karma is on a roll – let’s see what else she has for the zionist state.

    • Egbert on December 26, 2016, 6:09 am

      The timing is interesting. Why now? An attempt to make Israel seem ‘a responsible citzen in the world’ as an part of a plan to defuse the UN resolution?

      • echinococcus on December 30, 2016, 3:15 am

        I suppose so. But we make trains stick to schedule.

  4. AddictionMyth on December 26, 2016, 10:21 am

    It’s crumbling. The next domino to fall will be reports of abuse and exploitation in the ultra-orthodox community. It will be exposed as a huge cult – much like a concentrated version of AA.

  5. rosross on December 26, 2016, 10:44 pm

    There will be more to this story. Israel is one of the most corrupt States on the planet and Steinmetz is only one of many.

  6. Cazador on December 27, 2016, 2:55 am

    I can only hope that justice will prevail, and if it’s proven that the corruption has indeed happened, that justice will also carry its mandate fully, and that punishment will be imposed to its full extent against the accused Steinmetz.

  7. echinococcus on December 30, 2016, 3:13 am

    Well, hot dog! The genocidal Zionist entity has nabbed one tax evader or otherwise illegal petty-private criminal. Wow, the sensational news!
    So what are we supposed to do, Multiple-Parenthesis Chief? Jubilate because the pirate squatters enforce apartheid and conquest legality on one of their illegal immigrant members?

    Ooh, but perhaps they aren’t a rogue, Nazi state any longer if they make the trains arrive on time and build big, wide Autobahns for their Meistervolk?

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