Billionaire Beny Steinmetz released from Israel house arrest

Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz is seen during a business event in Tel Aviv, Israel August 8, 2010. REUTERS/Stringer

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel released billionaire businessman Beny Steinmetz from house arrest without charge on Wednesday, his mining firm BSG Resources (BSGR) and a court spokeswoman said, following his detention over bribery allegations involving BSGR in Africa.

Israeli authorities put Steinmetz, 60, under house arrest on Dec. 19. Police said he and other Israelis living abroad were alleged to have paid tens of millions of dollars to senior public officials in Guinea to advance their businesses.

BSGR said at the time that the allegations were “baseless”.

“The period of restriction has now elapsed and Mr Steinmetz is free of all legal restrictions, with no charges relating to any criminal activities, including bribery and corruption, being laid against him,” BSGR said in a statement on Wednesday.

Steinmetz cooperated fully with Israeli authorities in the investigation and “will continue to do so if and when required”, the statement said.

Police said Steinmetz’s release was conditional on his agreeing not to leave Israel for 180 days and on his depositing a guarantee of 100 million shekels (21.13 million pounds).

BSGR reiterated in its statement that the investigation had been initiated by the government of Guinea, which launched a review of mining contracts signed before 2011 as part of international efforts to improve transparency.

Within its review the West African nation investigated how BSGR obtained the rights to the Simandou deposit, the world’s largest untapped iron ore reserves, in 2008.

Anglo-Australian mining group Rio Tinto, and BSGR have made legal claims against each other over the mining rights in Simandou.

Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Gareth Jones