A Romanian court on Thursday sentenced French-Israeli diamond magnate Beny Steinmetz and political adviser Tal Silberstein in absentia to five years in jail each in an organized crime case.
The two Israelis were found guilty of “the creation of an organized criminal group” in a property-related case that dates back to 2006-2008 and cost the Romanian state $145 million.
Romanian businessman Remus Truica received a heavier sentence, seven years in jail, while a member of the former Romanian royal family, Prince Paul, was given three years and four months.
According to the prosecutor, the two Israelis and their Romanian associate bribed public officials to recover property “fraudulently claimed” by Prince Paul.
The former royal family was forced into exile in 1947 and its properties were confiscated.
Paul has lived in Bucharest since the 1990s but was never recognized as crown prince by the last king Michel who died in 2017.
That meant Paul was not the rightful heir even if properties were returned to the former royal family.
Steinmetz and Silberstein were initially acquitted by a lower court last year.
They were arrested in Israel in 2017 as part of an international investigation into money-laundering.
Steinmetz is also to face trial in Geneva next month for alleged corruption linked to mining deals in Guinea.
In February 2019, Steinmetz reached an accord with Guinean authorities who dropped corruption charges against him in exchange for his giving up rights to the Simandou iron mine.
However, Swiss authorities have continued to press ahead with their case, which could see Steinmetz jailed for up to 10 years if convicted.
Attorney Yuval Sasson, who represented both Silberstein and Steinmetz, charged that “the appeal process violated the law and the rules of justice. We intend to appeal to the European court to annul the process, which has happened more than once with regard to decisions by Romanian courts.
“After a well-reasoned acquittal running hundreds of pages long by the Romanian district court – which showed, among other things, that the investigation of the defendants was conducted in a scandalous fashion that included forging evidence out of improper motives, the Romanian prosecution filed an appeal to the Romanian Supreme Court,” he continued.
“Regrettably, the appeal process was conducted in a way that it’s impossible to call a fair trial and raises doubts about the independence of the panel of judges.
“For instance, the panel was changed 17 times until the ‘desirable’ panel was settled on, the crime with which the defendants were charged was never presented to them until the verdict was given, the protocols were written in a biased fashion, the defendants’ lawyers weren’t allowed to cross-examine key witnesses, and use was made of evidence that isn’t admissible even under Romanian law.
“My clients are determined to fight for their innocence in European courts, and we’re confident that they will overturn the Romanian decision, as they have done more than once with regard to other decisions by Romanian courts.”
Header: Beny Steinmetz Source: Dag Lars Cramér on behalf of Nornverdandi
Source: Israel Fisher – HAARETZ
Diamond tycoon Beny Steinmetz is owner of BSGR, an embattled mining company with a presence in Guinea and Sierra Leone.
BSGR is under investigation in several countries, including the U.S. for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The company denies the claims.
In 2010, BSGR sold 51% of its mining rights in Guinea to Brazil’s multinational Vale for $2.5 billion. As of 2016 it had only collected $500 million.
After determining that BSGR had obtained rights to Guinean iron mines illegally, in 2014 the Guinean government denied BSGR access to mines there.
In April 2017, he sued billionaire George Soros for $10 billion, accusing Soros of perpetrating a smear campaign. Soros denies the allegations.