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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 $2.5 billion.
Meanwhile, Guinea had been restored to democracy, and the newly-elected president, Alpha Condé, was indignant at this obviously fraudulent deal. He sought to reverse it. But the international economic order is so powerful that President Condé could not just seize back Guinea’s iron deposits; he needed proof of wrongdoing to satisfy potential new investors. In this New Yorker article in 2013, Patrick Radden Keefe explains in detail how Guinea, working with international advisers and eventually the U.S. government, spent years tracking down one of the defunct dictator’s wives in Florida, and she agreed to cooperate with U.S. prosecutors.
Steinmetz’s appearance in the news is a big change from the usual Western press coverage of corruption in Africa, which focuses almost exclusively on Africans. You could read a long New York Times article about, say, the grotesque Obiang family dictatorship in Equatorial Guinea that never once mentioned Exxon, the biggest oil giant in the country and the source of some of the Obiang millions.
The Steinmetz investigation is global. In addition to Israeli police, prosecutors and tax officials, American and Swiss authorities are also looking into his bribes and shell companies. There have even been hints that Beny Steinmetz could be extradited to Guinea to face justice.
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Will Israel’s government investigate the Israeli billionaire who is looting the Congo?
(James North) on December 6,
Diamonds, Big Mining and George Soros The Fall of Beny Steinmetz, Once Israel’s Richest Man
Years-long dispute over rights to massive African iron ore deposits have been replete with charges and counter-charges of bribery.
Uri Blau and TheMarker Dec 21, 2016 10:33 AM
The arrest of Beny Steinmetz on Monday morning over suspicions of bribery…subscribe now to get the full story Subscribe Haaretz unlimited. Only 1$ for the first month
Bloomberg Markets Magazine has just released a stunning look at the 38-year-old Israeli billionaire, Dan Gertler, whose mining deals in the DR Congo, the poorest country in the world, are strongly suspected of corruption. The Bloomberg article is thoroughly documented, and a brave Congolese activist summarized the case against Gertler:
“Dan Gertler is essentially looting Congo at the expense of its people,” says Jean Pierre Muteba, the head of a group of nongovernmental organizations that monitor the mining sector in Katanga province, where most of Congo’s copper is located.
“He has political connections, so state companies sell him mines for low prices and he sells them on for huge profits. That’s how he’s become a billionaire.”
The International Monetary Fund is so disturbed at the mega-corruption that it has suspended loans to the DR Congo. Some 70 percent of the country’s 73 million people are malnourished, and more than 5 million have died since 1998 as a consequence of war.
The Bloomberg article reports that Gertler flies to Tel Aviv every week to spend the Sabbath with his family, who live there in an ultra-orthodox suburb. When I was in Congo earlier this year, the word on the street was that Gertler had been something of a hell-raiser in his youth, but he had since found religion. So far, his faith does not seem to make room for the Congolese people from whom he is stealing. The article estimates his worth at $2.5 billion — which would be more than one-third of the entire Congolese government budget last year.
An American suspected of mega-corruption would become the target of investigation at both the federal and state levels. Will Israel’s government start to look into this man’s finances?
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