Beny Steinmetz, a Mining Magnate, Found Guilty in Swiss Corruption Trial


GENEVA — A Swiss court on Friday convicted the French-Israeli mining magnate Beny Steinmetz on charges of corrupting foreign public officials and forging documents, in a trial over his successful bid to reap lavish iron ore resources in the West African nation of Guinea.

Mr. Steinmetz, one of the richest people in Israel, was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay a $56.5 million fine.

The case centered on alleged payouts of millions of dollars to a former wife of an ex-president of Guinea, Lansana Conté, who died in 2008. The trial exposed the shady and complex world of deal-making and cutthroat competition in the lucrative mining business.

His defense lawyer, Marc Bonnant, said he would “immediately” appeal the ruling. Mr. Bonnant said his client had not given “a single dollar” to any official of the Guinea regime during Mr. Conté’s presidency.

The prosecutor, Yves Bertossa, told reporters he was “satisfied” with the verdict, and the Swiss transparency group Public Eye hailed a “landmark ruling.”

“This conviction of a high-profile business figure not only sends a strong signal to the commodities sector as a whole, but also demonstrates the vital need for Switzerland to finally remedy the legal loopholes that allow such predatory practices,” it said.

Mr. Steinmetz, 64, denied the charges, which date to the mid-2000s and involved his company, BSG Resources, squeezing out a rival for mining rights to vast iron ore deposits in the Simandou region of Guinea.

The Geneva prosecutor’s office alleged that Mr. Steinmetz and two other defendants engaged in corruption of foreign officials and falsification of documents to hide from authorities and banks the paying of bribes. Some of the funds allegedly transited through Switzerland — and the case has been investigated in Europe, Africa and the United States.

The Swiss prosecutor’s office said Mr. Steinmetz, starting in 2005, crafted a pact of corruption with Mr. Conté, who ruled the West African country from 1984 until his death, and his fourth wife, Mamadie Touré, involving the payment of nearly $10 million.

In its court filing, the prosecutor’s office said BSG Resources won exploration and exploitation licenses in Guinea between 2006 and 2010 in the Simandou region, and that its competitor — the Anglo-Australian mining group Rio Tinto — was deprived of the concessions it had held until then in that region.

In 2014, the Guinean government, after a review launched by the democratically elected president, Alpha Condé, accused Mr. Steinmetz’s company of corruption, paying millions of dollars through a representative to Ms. Touré.

Civil society organizations have lobbied for proposals that would add accountability for businesses headquartered in Switzerland for their actions abroad. One such proposal, which would have held companies based in Switzerland liable for human rights violations and environmental damage committed by subsidiaries abroad, failed in a referendum last year.

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Sheldon Adelson, billionaire casino magnate and Trump donor, dies


“If you do things differently, success will follow you like a shadow,” he said during a 2014 talk to the gambling industry in Las Vegas.

Blunt yet secretive, the squatly built Adelson resembled an old-fashioned political boss and stood apart from most American Jews, who for decades have supported Democrats by wide margins. Adelson was considered the nation’s most influential Republican donor over the final years of his life, at times setting records for individual contributions during a given election cycle.

In 2012, Politico called him “the dominant pioneer of the super PAC era”.

Adelson regularly hosted the party’s top strategists and most ambitious candidates at his modest office, wedged among the casinos on the Strip. Throughout, he helped ensure that uncritical support of Israel became a pillar of the Republican platform, never more visibly demonstrated than when the Trump administration relocated the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018.

Sheldon Adelson, pictured with President Donald Trump in 2019.Credit:AP

The inflammatory move had been adamantly opposed by Palestinians and was long a priority for Adelson, who had even offered to help pay for it, and for the Republican Jewish Coalition, of which he was the primary benefactor. Adelson and his wife, Miriam, were front and centre at the ceremony in Jerusalem.

When asked at a gambling conference what he hoped his legacy would be, Adelson said it wasn’t his glitzy casinos or hotels, it was his impact in Israel. He donated $US25 million, a record sum for a private citizen, to Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. He established a think tank in Jerusalem. He was closely aligned with the conservative Likud party and funded a widely read free daily newspaper called “Israel Hayom,” or “Israel Today,” so supportive of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that some Israelis nicknamed it “Bibi-ton.”

In the US, Adelson helped underwrite congressional trips to Israel, helped build a new headquarters for the lobbying group the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and later was a top supporter of the Israeli-American Council, whose conferences have attracted top Republicans (Vice-President Mike Pence) and Democrats (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi). He sponsored “Birthright” trips to Israel for young Jewish adults that were criticised by some participants as intolerant of opposing views.

His attachment to Israel was life-long and so deep that he once said he wished his military service had been in an Israeli uniform instead of an American one.

Adelson was a late bloomer in business and in politics. He didn’t become a casino owner, or a Republican, until well into middle age. Through the 1990s and after, his wealth soared and his engagement in politics intensified. He was a supporter of President George W Bush and backed Republican Rudolph Giuliani for the 2008 presidential race, before turning to the eventual candidate, Senator John McCain, who lost to Barack Obama.

His leverage grew considerably in 2010 after the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision lifted many restrictions on individual campaign contributions. He and his wife spent more than $US90 million on the 2012 election, funding presidential candidate Newt Gingrich and later Mitt Romney, who also lost to Obama.

“I’m against very wealthy people attempting to or influencing elections,” he told Forbes magazine in 2012. “But as long as it’s doable I’m going to do it.”

Adelson came around slowly to Trump, who during the campaign had said he would be “neutral” in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Trump even ridiculed his initial liking for Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, tweeting in 2015, “Sheldon Adelson is looking to give big dollars to Rubio because he feels he can mould him into his perfect little puppet. I agree!” Adelson eventually endorsed Trump, but remained hesitant through much of 2016. He gave more than $US20 million in the final weeks of the campaign after reports that he would contribute $US100 million, and was more generous with congressional races.

But after Trump’s surprise victory, the new President spoke often with Adelson and embraced his hardline views on the Middle East. He cut funding for Palestinian refugees and withdrew from the Obama administration’s nuclear nonproliferation deal with Iran. He moved the US embassy to Jerusalem even though earlier administrations – Democratic and Republican – avoided doing do because it directly challenged the Palestinian view that the ancient city should be part of any peace agreement.

Adelson, in turn, aided Trump financially, including $US5 million for his inauguration, and supported him through his media holdings. Late in 2015, Adelson secretly purchased the Las Vegas Review-Journal – the paper’s own reporters revealed he was the new owner – and soon raised concerns he was imposing his own views. Some long-time staffers left in protest.

In what was widely seen as a mark of the Adelsons’ influence with Trump, Miriam Adelson was given a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2018.

Adelson, who contributed more than $US100 million to the 2018 off-year elections, held extraordinary power among Republicans even though he didn’t always agree with them. In a 2012 interview with the Wall Street Journal, he called himself “basically a social liberal,” pro-choice on abortion and supportive of immigrant rights. He cited taxes and differences over Israel as major reasons for leaving the Democratic party.

In Nevada, his influence was such that even the state’s most prominent Democrat, Senator Harry Reid, hesitated to take him on. In a 2014 interview with MSNBC, the then-Senate majority leader differentiated between Adelson and fellow Republican billionaire donors Charles and David Koch. Reid had sharply criticised the Koch brothers as callous and greedy, while saying that he respected Adelson because he was “not in it to make money,” a widely challenged opinion.

He had previously told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that he remained friends with Adelson despite their political differences.

“Sheldon Adelson and I still meet and have conversations. He has a problem, I try to help him,” Reid said.

Adelson was married twice. He and his first wife, Sandra, were divorced in 1988. Three years later, he married Miriam Farbstein-Ochshorn, an Israeli-born doctor he met on a blind date and whom many believe helped deepen his involvement with Israel. Their honeymoon trip to Venice inspired Adelson to raze the historic Sands hotel-casino, once a favourite hangout for Frank Sinatra among others, and replace them with a pair of massive complexes: The Venetian and The Palazzo, one of the city’s tallest buildings.

Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam await the arrival of President Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Las Vegas last year.

Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam await the arrival of President Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Las Vegas last year.Credit:AP

Sheldon Adelson adopted his first wife’s three children and had two children with his second wife. Among numerous philanthropic projects, he and Miriam Adelson were especially committed to the research and treatment of substance abuse, a personal cause for Sheldon Adelson. His son Mitchell, from his first marriage, died of an overdose in 2005. (Sheldon Adelson would spend millions opposing state efforts to legalise marijuana).

Sheldon Garry Adelson was born in 1933, in the Dorchester neighbourhood of Boston. His father was a taxi driver, his mother the manager of a knitting store. A natural entrepreneur, he was selling newspapers by age 12 and running a vending machine business at 16. After dropping out of City College of New York and serving in the Army, he attempted to start dozens of businesses, from toiletries to de-icing windshields.

Adelson, who said he disdained email, began to amass his fortune with a technology trade show, starting computer convention COMDEX in 1979 with partners before selling his stake in 1995 for more than $US800 million.

When he bought the Sands Hotel in 1989, he was thinking convention space, not just gambling, would make money. It did. He built a convention hall to keep his hotel rooms full on weekdays and others soon followed the business model. Meanwhile, his effort to replicate the Strip in Macau, the only Chinese province to allow gambling, made his wealth grow exponentially.

When faced with water and marsh land, Adelson directed his company to build land where there wasn’t any, piling sand up to create the Cotai Peninsula. Soon his Macau revenue outstripped that of his Las Vegas holdings. He later expanded his business to Singapore, where his Marina Bay Sands hotel and its infinity pool were featured in the hit film Crazy Rich Asians, and had been pressing to open a casino in Japan.

His Macau business also spawned a long-running wrongful termination lawsuit brought by a former chief of Sands China Ltd who accused Adelson and the company of firing him for exposing a host of misdeeds. Adelson often clashed with attorneys while appearing on a Clark County courtroom’s witness stand.

The Sands China lawsuit was among dozens involving Adelson, whose cases included his suing a Wall Street Journal reporter for calling him “foul-mouthed” (the parties settled, the words remained) to being sued by his sons from his first marriage for cheating them out of money (he won).

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A long-running feud with fellow casino tycoon Steve Wynn turned to friendship when Wynn joined Adelson’s effort to end online gambling. Critics said Adelson was trying to stifle competition. Adelson countered that there was no way to ensure children and teenagers wouldn’t gamble and said he was “not in favour of it exploiting the world’s most vulnerable people”.

Trump’s election would again prove useful to Adelson. During the Obama administration, the Justice Department said online gambling that does not involve sporting events would not violate the Wire Act, a 1961 federal statute. In a legal opinion that became public early in 2019, the department reversed itself and decided the statute applies to any form of gambling.

AP

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Casino magnate and Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson dies aged 87




Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire mogul and power broker who built a casino empire spanning from Las Vegas to China and became a singular force in domestic and international politics has died after a long illness, his wife said on Tuesday.Miriam Adelson and the Las Vegas Sands both released statements confirming Adelson’s death. He was 87 years old.He was the son of Jewish immigrants, raised with two siblings in a Boston tenement, who over the second half of his life became one of the world’s…

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Another magnate flees strict Victorian lockdown aboard superyacht


A second Melbourne multi-millionaire has fled Victoria’s COVID-19 lockdown, this time on a luxury yacht to cross the Queensland border.

Property magnate Mark Simonds has sailed up the east coast in the superyacht Lady Pamela with his family, following Linfox trucking heir Peter Fox on the Gold Coast, Nine Newspapers revealed.

However, in breaking news on Tuesday night, Queensland’s chief health officer revoked the COVID-related exemption granted to the seven who arrived in Queensland on the yacht, one of Australia’s most sumptuous vessels.

Police boarded the yacht – which has its own Instagram page, livery, and uniformed staff – and prepared to disembark all seven, to be taken off for 14 days quarantine in a government-approved hotel.

A Queensland Health spokesperson said the state’s Chief Health Officer has “revoked her exemption for seven people aboard the Lady Pamela vessel.”

“All seven people are now required to quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 14 days at their own expense.”

“Attempting to bypass or manipulate Queensland’s border direction is unacceptable.”

It’s understood new information provided to Queensland Health indicated the owner was granted the exemption approval based on incomplete information.

There is no suggestion that any of the passengers did anything unlawful. Nobody has been arrested or charged over the incident.

A Current Affair reported that everyone on the yacht was COVID-19 tested on Tuesday afternoon after a mobile health team boarded the vessel.

The TV show filmed Mr Simonds and his glamorous wife Cheryl enjoying drinks with friends on the deck of the Lady Pamela, others jumping off the side for a swim or cruising in an inflatable dinghy during one of the stopovers on the voyage north.

The 30m Italian built marble and gold finished Lady Pamela was just one of several ways rich Victorians were fleeing Victorian lockdown.

It has also been revealed that other rich Victorians are fleeing the state in private jets to avoid Premier Daniel Andrews’ strict COVID-19 lockdown laws.

Daily Mail Australia reported Victoria’s wealthy with private aircraft were even asking pilots to turn off the plane’s transponders to escape detection.

Mr Simonds is the latest of Victoria’s elite wealthy trying to escape masks and COVID-19 restrictions for the Queensland sunshine.

Both he and Mr Fox and their families were granted exemptions for different reasons while Queensland has forbidden the entry of most Victorian visitors.

That was until Queensland Health revoked the exemption for Mr Simonds, one of his children, his wife and one of Mr Fox’s daughters who was travelling on-board.

Channel 9 reported the Lady Pamela stopped at sic ports including Eden, Jervis Bay, Yamba and Coffs Harbour.

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Premier Andrews has been severely criticised for his plan to extend the government’s ability to enforce COVID-19 restrictions by extending Victoria’s state of emergency by 18 months.

Mr Simonds, his glamorous wife Cheryl and one of their sons sailed from a stage four lockdown Melbourne just over two weeks ago.

The Lady Pamela docked on the Gold Coast on Monday morning and passengers and crew were tested for COVID-19 before being allowed to disembark.

On board the boat was Hannah Fox, the daughter of Linfox trucking executive chairman Peter Fox.

Ms Fox is expected to go to the Palm Beach, Queensland, property leased by her family since July 1, while the Simonds will go to their Burleigh Heads home.

A Current Affair reported earlier this month that Mr Fox, his wife Lisa and two other of their children had moved to the Gold Coast under a rule allowing truck drivers to enter the state.

Mr Fox told ACA he had a trucking licence, had brought a truck down to the Gold Coast from Cairns and was now a Queensland resident.

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The family is renting a multi-millionaire dollar waterfront mansion from former Grand Prix motorcycle road racing world champion Mick Doohan where he told Nine he could keep his family “healthy and safe”.

Mr Fox is one of six children of Linfox founder and self made billionaire Lindsay Fox and is Executive Chairman of the Linfox group.

Mr Simonds is one of three sons of Gary Simonds who founded the construction empire Simonds Homes more than 70 years ago.

The ASX-listed company is one of Australia’s largest home builders.

Victoria’s second wave coronavirus outbreak which saw daily cases soar above 700 a few weeks ago now appears to be on an overall downward trend, with 148 new cases on Tuesday, slightly up on the 116 new cases on Monday.

candace.sutton@news.com.au



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