November 5, 2013 / 8:07 PM / in 4 years

Guinea calls BSGR to December hearing on mining contracts

NEW YORK/LONDON, Nov 5 (Reuters) - A committee charged with reviewing mining deals in Guinea has given BSG Resources a month to provide additional responses to a string of allegations including that it paid bribes to secure contracts, setting a hearing date of Dec. 10.

BSGR, the mining arm of Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz’s business empire, is battling Guinea over the right to develop half of the Simandou deposit in the country’s south - one of the world’s richest undeveloped deposits of iron ore.

The current Guinean government accuses BSGR of bribing officials to win its Simandou concession in 2008. BSGR has denied the allegations, and has accused the government of using the review of mining contracts to illegally seize its licences.

A hearing next month is unlikely to be definitive, but it would bring closer a long-awaited decision on BSGR’s licences.

BSGR declined to comment on Tuesday on the Guinean committee’s request for fresh information.

In a letter, dated Nov. 1 and seen by Reuters, the independent technical committee reviewing mining deals said responses it had received so far from BSGR had not been enough to dismiss the accusations levelled against the group.

The letter outlined 25 allegations, which included offering entertainment and meals to high-ranking officials, and gifts including cash, telephones and perfumes.

The committee said in the letter that BSG’s responses to the allegations, many of them first detailed a year ago, had so far been either “incomplete, inaccurate or irrelevant”.

It also said evidence obtained during a separate U.S. investigation into mining corruption in Guinea raised questions over some of BSGR’s responses.

Earlier this year, FBI agents arrested BSGR representative Frederic Cilins in Florida, on charges of obstructing a criminal investigation, tampering with a witness and destruction of records. That trial is expected next year.

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